Winston-Salem council expresses opposition to marriage amendment

Opponents of the marriage amendment raise their hands to indicate their plans to vote against the marriage amendment during a rally this evening near Salem College in Winston-Salem.

On the eve of a statewide referendum on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would make marriage between a man and woman the only domestic legal union recognized under the law, the Winston-Salem City Council has passed a resolution in opposition to the ballot initiative.

The motion by South Ward Councilwoman Molly Leight passed comfortably by a vote of 7 to 1.

“Aside from the inherent wrongness of writing discrimination into the constitution of North Carolina, we as the Winston-Salem City Council have to consider the consequences to our city, if this amendment should pass,” Leight said from the dais. “We must be cognizant of our responsibilities to the economic prospects of Winston-Salem and our attractiveness to companies seeking to locate here.”

Southwest Ward Councilman Dan Besse argued that the marriage amendment “is directly relevant to city business,” and an appropriate topic for the council to address.

“Of specific concern to Winston-Salem, the passage of Amendment One could jeopardize the ability of courts and police to issue and enforce civil restraining orders against domestic abusers who are not married to their victims,” Besse said. “The passage of Amendment One would cut off local government healthcare coverage for children and families who receive them from a parent’s unmarried partner employed by that local government. Even those domestic-partner benefits provided by private companies could be called into legal question. The passage of Amendment One would certainly make it more difficult for Winston-Salem to recruit jobs and investment from national companies who want to provide those benefits to their employees, or who just want to be competitive to talented employees who may feel reluctant to work in a city whose state says they’re not welcome."

West Ward Councilman Robert Clark cast the lone dissenting vote, but he said that as a citizen he voted against the amendment at the polls.

Clark said he could not support the resolution to put the city on record as opposing the amendment because of a tradition that the council deal only with “things pertinent to this committee.” Clark categorized the marriage amendment as a matter that indirectly affects the city, along with national healthcare reform, licensing of nuclear power plants and natural gas fracking.

Clark added that he was sharing his vote on the actual amendment as a “personal opinion.”

“I have a basic concern with amending the constitution for a what-if situation,” he said. “I think amendments to the constitution should be well thought out. You’re taking something that is written in ink and chiseling it in stone. And I think before you chisel it in stone you better be darned sure you know what you’re doing.”

When word of the vote reached an anti-amendment contingent across the street from City Hall, they let out a cheer and yelled, “No to hate.”

A couple dozen pro-amendment demonstrators picketed city hall with signs during the council vote.

“There’s a vote tomorrow, I believe,” one of them retorted to their opponents across the street.

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