One commissioner says board shouldn’t consider ‘icky’ topic
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One commissioner says the topic is "icky," but that sentiment isn’t stopping a North Carolina county’s elected leaders from discussing domestic partner benefits.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners has the topic on its planning retreat agenda for the first time in four years, The Charlotte Observer reported Jan. 29.
Commissioners weren’t expected to vote at the retreat, which ended Friday, Jan. 30, on whether to change the county’s benefits policy.
Commissioner Bill James called the topic "icky" and said in an e-mail that the county has no business discussing it. James said state laws make same-sex relationships illegal.
Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts said the county must offer a benefits package that is fair and competitive. Roberts wants a decision on whether the county’s staff should study the issue more.
"I think [extending the benefits] shows that you’re keeping up with what’s going on in the marketplace," Roberts said. "It shows that you are moving forward and that you’re trying to treat employees with fairness."
Commissioners were scheduled to discuss about 16 issues, including consolidation of city and county functions, funding for schools and what to do about the homeless population in North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area.
In 2005, the commissioners discussed benefits and added sexual orientation to the county nondiscrimination policy.
"We have no business even discussing it. We know it is illegal," James said. "Any type of common sense evaluation of this would say that you cannot offer health benefits for people engaging in behavior that the law says is a criminal offense."
A few governments in North Carolina offer domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, including the municipalities of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham and Greensboro and Durham and Orange counties.