North Carolina Lawmakers Approve Revised Anti-Gay Measure
Business, Civic Leaders Object
"But the negative business impact is far from the only harm of this amendment. Growing up in a conservative atmosphere in Hickory, North Carolina, I felt first-hand the stigma of being different in a Southern state’s a feeling that made it clear to me that I was not welcome in North Carolina.
"The proposed discriminatory legislation will only perpetuate this stigma for a new generation of creative, talented youth, uninterested in second-class citizenship in a state they call home," Hughes went on to caution. "Gay and lesbian North Carolinians work hard, contribute to society, and want to protect their families like everyone else. Their families deserve the same respect and the same treatment as everyone else, and they should not be exposed to the derogatory and harmful anti-gay rhetoric that inevitability accompanies these kinds of campaigns. North Carolina deserves better than that.
"The next Facebook or Apple or Google could be created by another North Carolinian," noted Hughes. "Be mindful of how you treat them and their families."
"Hughes, as part of his effort to defeat the amendment, also pledged to donate $10, up to the amount of $10,000, for every new person who ’liked’ Equality North Carolina on Facebook," Care2.com reported. "Within hours of making this announcement, the group reached its goal of 10,000 new supporters and the donation promise was fulfilled."
Care2.com also noted that North Carolina respondents polled unfavorably toward an amendment that denied same-sex families any form of legal recognition whatsoever, even though they said that marriage should be reserved as an exclusive special right for heterosexuals.
Another "Open Letter," dated Sept. 11, 2011, was signed by officials from a number of cities and towns around North Carolina, including the mayors of Chapel Hill and Durham, and the mayor pro tem of Asheville, Equality North Carolina announced in a Sept. 11 posting at their their website.
"This legislation represents a threat to North Carolina’s ability to recruit the diverse workforce needed to compete in a global economy, will strip public employees of domestic partner benefits while also hindering benefits in the private sector, and perpetuates a divisive social agenda that is unwelcoming and not reflective of our state," warned the leaders of North Carolina’s major cities, all of which offer domestic partnership benefits to the families of gay and lesbian municipalities.
"It is our firm belief that as a North Carolina legislator, you have an obligation to keep our state’s constitution a document that protects the rights and freedoms of North Carolina’s of citizens, and do everything in your power to defeat this discriminatory legislation," the letter continued.
"In addition to threatening basic protections for same-gender couples broadly, the anti-gay amendment, strips domestic partner benefits already recognized by several cities and counties in the state including: Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham, Greensboro, Asheville, Orange County, Durham County, and Mecklenburg County," added the open letter.
"In Chapel Hill domestic partnerships allow Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees, and their families access to important protections such as health care and compensated sick leave to care for family members."
The letter went on to note that a majority of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partnership benefits to their gay and lesbian employees.
"Turning the clock back on equality will have a very real impact on North Carolina’s economy and our ability to compete in the international marketplace," warned the letter’s authors. "When companies search for locations they consider all aspects of a community; smart companies know LGBT Americans are not only part of America, but that their talent is essential to its future."
The concerns of business and municipal leaders seemed to register to some degree with North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers, who said that revised language in the bill would allow corporations to engage in contracts with their employees that included family benefits.
"Judiciary committee chairman Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, said in an interview the new language is intended to show ’what this amendment is about is same-sex marriage ... the specific things that have motivated the sponsors. It’s not about private contractual relationships from private companies to private individuals,’ " a Sept. 11 Associated Press article said.
But experts warned that protecting such private contractual rights while curtailing the civil rights of a specific class of citizens would do little to entice companies to go to North Carolina.
The University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill’s Holning Lau "said the revised amendment would still hamper the ability of private employers in North Carolina to attract and retain workers in creative fields who "prefer to work and live in places that embrace diversity and are inclusive of gays and lesbians," the AP reported.
Moreover, the proposed amendment’s "new language still threatens local governments’ domestic partner benefits and registries, statewide domestic violence protections and possibly child custody and visitation laws," Lau told the AP.
A similar dismissal of business concerns was evident last May in Tennessee, where Gov. Bill Haslam ignored the state’s business community and signed a bill -- after hours and with no fanfare -- that banned municipalities from implementing their own GLBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances. The bill was a response to the city of Nashville having adopted such policies.
Haslam’s action drew pointed criticism from LGBT activists.
"Discrimination should have no place in the Volunteer State and the Chamber’s opposition to this law sent a strong signal that corporations are on the leading edge of positive change," said Solmonese. "In contrast, Governor Haslam has put discrimination ahead of the state’s values and even business interests by signing this horrible legislation."
Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.