By Tami Fitzgerald
Christian Action League
Although North Carolina has a state law that specifically prohibits gay marriage and does not recognize legal status for same-sex domestic partners, Mecklenburg County Commissioners voted on December 15, 2009 to begin offering healthcare benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of County employees. The benefits for homosexual couples will come from County tax revenues. Equality NC, the State’s largest homosexual rights advocacy group, applauded the move and credited the vote to “many months and years of advocacy and electoral work conducted by MeckPAC,” the local Mecklenburg Gay & Lesbian Political Action Committee.
The new plan defines “domestic partners” as two same-sex people in a “spousal like” and “exclusive, mutually committed” relationship in which both “share the necessities of life and are financially interdependent.” In order to be classified as “domestic partners” who are eligible for the county benefits, couples will be required to sign legal affidavits along with joint financial documents such as a joint mortgage or lease. Employees will be able to enroll in a domestic partner plan sometime next fall, when the county government enters into a new health insurance enrollment period. Mecklenburg County’s plan will only apply to same-sex, unmarried couples, not opposite-sex, unmarried couples.
The County’s Human Resources Department submitted a report to the Board before the vote that outlined the potential costs and benefits of offering medical and leave benefits to same-sex partners of county employees. The report concluded that the cost to the county for domestic partner benefits ranges from $400,000 to $1.2 million per year above and beyond current benefits costs. The report also included a white paper from the Corporate Resource Council (CRC) documenting that homosexual behavior is a public health risk leading to higher rates of HIV/AIDS and adding hidden costs to employers who offer domestic partner benefits. “HIV/AIDS affects gay men disproportionately. In fact, one observer estimates that ‘the incidence of AIDS among 20- to 30-year-old homosexual men is roughly 430 times greater than among the heterosexual population at large,’” the report states. Board Chair, Jennifer Roberts objected to inclusion of the CRC report, challenging its findings that gay sex poses a health risk.
Mecklenburg County now joins the Towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the Cities of Durham and Greensboro, and the Counties of Durham and Orange in offering domestic partner benefits. Mecklenburg County also includes “sexual orientation: in its non-discrimination policy for employees. Charlotte’s new Mayor, Anthony Foxx, has promised homosexual activists that he intends to move the City Council to act quickly to pass similar measures.
Members of the Mecklenburg County Commission voted along party lines as follows:
Voting for Domestic Partner Benefits (all Democrats):
Dumont Clarke (Dist. 4)
Harold Cogdell, Jr. (Vice-Chair, At-Large)
George Dunlap (Dist. 3)
Vilma Leake (Dist. 2)
Dan Murrey (At-Large)
Jennifer Roberts (Chair, At-Large)
Voting Against Domestic Partner Benefits (all Republicans):
Karen Bentley (Dist. 1)
Neil Cooksey (Dist. 5)
Bill James (Dist. 6