Mitchell County Commissioners and Amendment One

The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners voted on a resolution related to Amendment One on April 2, 2012. They held their meeting at The Mitchell County Historic Courthouse in order to accommodate the number of people expected to attend. The commissioners took public comment on a resolution encouraging voter participation on May 8. Several people spoke in favor of the commissioners passing a resolution in support of the amendment. Four speakers made statements encouraging the commissioners to stay neutral.

The commissioners’ resolution made reference throughout to the defense of marriage and marriage between a man and a woman. Each commissioner stated that he believes marriage to be between a man and a woman. Four of the five said they will vote for the amendment. However, in the end, they all stated that it is not the business of the Board of Commissioners to tell people how to vote. They passed their resolution encouraging voter participation on May 8.

The county commissioners in all the counties surrounding Mitchell County passed resolutions in support of Amendment One. The fact that our commissioners did not is a sign of the change that is happening in Mitchell County.

Here are the statements that the four speakers made to the commissioners.

Allison Bovée, co-founder of the Mitchell County Gay Straight Alliance

My name is Allison Bovée. I am from the Mitchell County Gay Straight Alliance. I’d like to thank the commissioners for allowing us to speak on this important issue.

Marriage between two people of the same gender is already illegal in North Carolina. This amendment would further make it illegal for two people to ever engage in a civil union, or a domestic partnership of any kind.  This amendment takes away rights that already exist, and is nothing but a mean spirited attempt to hammer home the point that gay and lesbian people are not full citizens.

This amendment would affect all 223,000 unmarried couples in this state. 22,000 of those couples are gay or lesbian.

Many of these couples have children. If this amendment passes, there are children who will wake up on May 9th  without health insurance. Families who will no longer have the ability to pay for the medicines and treatments that they and their children need. This is not speculation. This actually happened in the state of Michigan,  when an amendment like this one passed. The Michigan Supreme Court found that the amendment barred public employers from providing health care benefits to partners for gay and lesbian employees. This amendment takes away rights.

In all honesty, I believe the commissioners should ask people to vote against any amendment that would hurt North Carolina citizens.  But I am not asking you to do that. I am simply asking that the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners recognize that they represent all the citizens of Mitchell County and remain neutral on this issue.

Connie Sedberry, Executive Director of Mitchell County SafePlace

If Amendment One is passed, the application of North Carolina’s domestic violence laws will be left open for question-threatening our state’s victims of domestic violence. Additionally, the work done by numerous state agencies relying upon current domestic violence laws will be thrown into flux, and the protections and resources afforded to North Carolinians in abusive relationships could be seriously and dangerously eroded.

North Carolina has long recognized that domestic violence victims deserve protection whether or not they are married to their abusers and have made sure that domestic violence laws cover unmarried victims-but those protections may conflict with the proposed constitutional amendment’s prohibitions.  Other states that passed similar amendments spent years litigating the application of domestic violence laws to unmarried couples in the courts which left countless victims unprotected.

In Virginia, where a similar amendment was considered (and eventually passed), domestic violence programs were frantically trying to come up with ways to get more victims into shelters because they wouldn’t have the same access to protective orders as they did before the amendment. This means more money spent on sheltering victims while their abusers are allowed to stay in their homes.

North Carolina Courts will not be able to make a choice as to whether to apply Amendment One to domestic violence scenarios. A constitution, whether federal or state, is supreme law. If a court thinks that there is a conflict, the Constitution controls and the court will limit the reach of statute accordingly.  Amendment One, as proposed, would create a conflict between domestic violence laws and the state constitution.  Since the amendment would rewrite the Constitution, it would trump statutory protections, potentially undoing all the work that the General Assembly has done to protect domestic violence victims.

State legislatures cannot fix a constitutional amendment by themselves. Constitutional provisions are not like statutes-they cannot be addressed by legislatures acting alone. Instead, a legislature must follow extensive rules, costing time, effort and resources. Enshrining discrimination in the Constitution is not only wrong, it is incredibly difficult to fix. Amendment One would be the first time that the General Assembly has amended the constitution in order to discriminate against specific individuals, flying in the face of the state’s tradition of amending the constitution to increase equality.

In North Carolina, the potential unconstitutionality of current domestic violence laws as a result of Amendment One will mean uneven application and uncertainty among numerous judicial districts and state agencies and fewer protections to those already vulnerable as well as an enormous waste of sate resources.

I would like to quote Peter Romary, a well known attorney in the field of domestic violence: ” I again want to stress to those who may be considering voting for the amendment on religious grounds, this amendment could, and I stress COULD, seriously impact domestic violence protections and protective orders in this state. Similar language did in Ohio and could very well do so here. While I cannot definitively say this will be the case, there is no one who can guarantee you it will not, and Ohio’s language was very close and DID impact their laws. Please do not take a chance. jThis could impact the lives of victims and weaken protections of the law. I freely admit I am agains the amendment for myriad reasons, but this is one I ask everyone, regardless of your beliefs, to strongly consider. We are all opposed to domestic violence and our domestic violence murder rate is already one of the highest per capita-PLEASE consider this when you vote!”

Bill Weeks, Local Businessman

First, let me say I am speaking as a citizen of the state of North Carolina and I am in no way speaking for the MAY Coalition, the organization for which I work.

I do not like the amendment.  I feel it limits happiness for others; I feel it limits freedom for citizens of a free country.  I feel it unnecessarily drives a wedge between neighbors.  For all these reasons, I personally don’t like the amendment.

But what I came to talk about tonight is that if Mitchell County Commissioners vote to support the amendment that would be bad for job creation in Mitchell County.  It would be bad for the economy of Mitchell County, and I’ll tell you why I feel this way.  For one thing, we want our children who have gone away for jobs to want to come back.  They are our hope—our smart young children who have left our mountains for opportunity elsewhere.  And they will want to come back if we are a welcoming community with opportunities to offer.  That’s number one.  Number two is more general and I’m paraphrasing from another Chamber of Commerce’s official statement.  “North Carolina’s proposed Amendment 1 is bad for business.  It will interfere with employers’ ability to recruit talent.   It also signals to employers, employees, and entrepreneurs that North Carolina (and I would insert Mitchell County) is not welcoming to the diverse, creative workforce that we need to compete in the state and national and global economy.  We should not do anything that diminishes any corporation’s interest in locating or remaining in North Carolina—or Mitchell County.”

So I say to you, the Mitchell County Commissioners,   “Why would you want to take a stand?”  This is not an issue to be decided county by county.  It’s a state issue, it’s a personal issue, and it’s already on the ballot.  The people will decide this matter on May 8th.  Taking action in support of this Amendment can only make Mitchell County stand out as an intolerant and unwelcoming community.  When we’re all trying to encourage entrepreneurs and to bring new jobs to our area, why would we consider distinguishing ourselves in such a negative manner?  I say to you; if you’re against gay marriage, vote your feelings on May 8, but please don’t single out Mitchell County as The county of intolerance.

Anne Wilson Castro, Chair Mitchell County Democratic Party & lifelong resident of Mitchell Co

In 1959, in the 4th grade at Ledger, my teacher segregated us kids in the classroom, not by height, not by physical challenges, not by I.Q., but by the church we attended. Those kids attending her church were allowed seats up front, first in line to go to recess, and lunch.  The rest of us  THAT DID NOT ATTEND HER CHURCH were put in the back and pretty much ignored.

Every Monday morning, this teacher would go to each child and ask, “Did you go to church on Sunday and where did you go?”   One 8 year old girl always told the truth and would have to say “no, mama and  daddy didn’t take me”.   My teacher would then continue to berate, belittle and call her a “god-less” child and continue to tell us Dottie Sue’s family would go to hell and quote scripture about it .  The little girl would hang her head and cry.    I believe in Luke 6:37:38, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”

Gentlemen, it takes moral and ethical responsibility to not discriminate.  We are all MITCHELL COUNTY CITIZENS.  We ALL pay taxes that are turned over to you to make the best decisions possible for ALL  CITIZENS regardless of   religious convictions, our marital status,  how we look,  or our political affiliation.

I  strongly advocate voting against Amendment One.  After all, even before the Amendment was put on the ballot, it was illegal to marry the same sex. I hear the innuendos, the untrue rumors, the fear-mongering among some Mitchell County citizens about this “gay marriage” thing.  I also know it is an “election” year and votes are important to those running.  By signing the Resolution to support the Amendment, you, like my 4th Grade Teacher, can sit us in the front or the back of the classroom.

Every church in this county, and in this country, is granted religious freedom in our State and Federal Constitutions.  Imposing the religious beliefs of one group of citizens to take away freedoms of others is unacceptable.  That is why our Governments have been most effective when they practice the separation of church and state. Because  the 130 churches in Mitchell County are allowed to interpret the Bible differently,   I hope that they remember just how to interpret and practice Luke 6:37:38.

See resolution  below