[Updated] Raleigh council takes stand vs. anti-LGBT amendment; vote is 6-2 against discriminatory measure

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[Update, Tuesday, 3 p.m. The newly installed Raleigh City Council, led by new Mayor Nancy McFarlane, voted 6-2 this afternoon to go on record in opposition to the proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. The action was swift. Councilor Eugene Weeks made the motion to follow the recommendation of the city's Human Rights Commission (see below). His motion passed by a 6-2 vote.

Councilors Bonner Gaylord and John Odom dissented. Gaylord said he was torn. His 10-year marriage needs no defense, he said, from an anti-gay amendment to the constitution allegedly aimed at "defending" marriage. But he said the Raleigh council was "outside its purview" in addressing the issue. Gaylord's vote may indicate that, while he is an unaffiliated voter, he sees his political future on the Republican rather than the Democratic side of the fence. Odom, the other no vote, is the council's lone Republican. He said he was voting to defend his 40-year marriage and the idea of marriage as "one man and one woman."

Speaking for the action, Councilor Russ Stephenson said it was indeed within the council's purview to oppose an amendment that could put Raleigh at a competitive disadvantage in attracting new businesses. A non-discriminatory environment for all employees is something many companies look for when making location decisions. Putting Raleigh's opposition in that framework should allay Gaylord's concerns about "getting off the page" and onto extraneous federal or state issues, Stephenson said.

Chris Moutos, chair of the Human Relations Commission, hailed the vote and said it's evidence of Raleigh becoming a progressive city for human rights issues. Jimmy Creech, a leading gay rights advocate, called it an important step that will help to energize Raleigh opponents to the amendment as it heads toward a referendum at the 2012 primary elections.]

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The original post from Saturday, Dec. 3 is below:

Equality North Carolina is asking its supporters to pack the Raleigh Council chambers Tuesday afternoon in hopes the Council will take a position against the proposed state constitutional amendment to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The anti-LGBT amendment, billed by its supporters as anti-gay marriage, would also bar the state from enacting laws to recognize civil unions or any form of domestic partnership unless it consists of one man and one woman. The amendment was approved by the Republican-led General Assembly and will be on primary election ballots in 2012.

The Raleigh Council, newly seated following the fall elections, will be considering a recommendation from the city's Human Rights Commission that it oppose the amendment and support gay equality. Here's the agenda item:

The City of Raleigh Human Relations Commission recommends that the City Council make a public pronouncement against the “anti-gay” marriage amendment recently passed by the General Assembly and which is scheduled to appear on the May, 2012 ballot. The language which is to appear on the ballot is as follows: “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.” Representatives from the Commission will be present to respond to questions.

The Council meeting begins at 1 p.m. It will be the first meeting for the members elected in October, and the first led by Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane, who will be sworn in Monday night at ceremonies in the Raleigh Convention Center. McFarlane replaces outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker; the only other change in council personnel is in District A, where Randy Stagner was elected to replace McFarlane. So, eight members — including the mayor — and one new face.

Meeker, according to Councilor Russ Stephenson, offered a ringing declaration in opposition to the anti-gay amendment this morning at the Mayor's Unity Breakfast. (I wasn't there.) Of course, Meeker won't be in office Tuesday when the issue comes up for discussion.

Stephenson said he's been flooded with emails asking him to oppose the amendment, which he's ready to do, he added.

So far, Stephenson said, he doesn't think anyone on Council has drafted specific language for a resolution. That could happen Tuesday after the Human Relations Commission makes its report.

A majority of the Council, including Mayor-elect McFarlane, took pro-gay rights positions during the elections. However, this cast of councilors (with the exception of Stagner, who's new) has never voted, in connection with city employee benefits, to accord equal treatment to employees' married spouses and same-sex partners.

Durham and Chapel Hill do treat their employees' spouses and same-sex partners equally for purposes of benefits, policies that would — not incidentally — be outlawed by the constitutional amendment.

Equality NC's website details what the amendment says and the case against it.

This is from the email Equality NC is sending to supporters:

[A] great chance to make a very public difference in fighting NC's family-harming, job-killing, discriminatory, anti-LGBT amendment will come on Tuesday.

The Raleigh City Council is set to vote on a public pronouncement against the amendment. The matter comes before the Council on Tuesday, December 6, at 1 p.m., in the municipal building located at 222 W. Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh.

Please join us in the audience as we all come together to support our capital city leaders in this important proclamation so that Raleigh can go "on the record" as opposing this discriminatory measure.

Because Raleigh is only the beginning,

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