Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James wants to know why the county still offers same-sex benefits to employees three months after voters in North Carolina approved Amendment One by a wide margin.
“The critical matter before the county commission is that the county cannot offer benefits for a ‘spousal like’ relationship,” James said in an email to commissioners and other county officials two weeks ago. “The problem with our current policy is that it is based on illicit activity (namely an illicit ‘spousal like’ relationship). ... What I want is for the county to comply with the law,” he wrote.
In May, Amendment One passed with 61 percent of the votes cast in the state. The constitutional amendment makes marriage between a man and a woman the “only domestic legal union.” Mecklenburg was one of seven counties to vote against the amendment.
Twelve Mecklenburg County employees receive domestic-partner benefits, a human resources administrator said in an email.
County Attorney Marvin Bethune said neither the entire board of commissioners nor the County Manager Harry Jones has asked him to do research or give his legal opinion regarding domestic-partner benefits.
But Bethune did say Jones directed Deputy County Attorney Tyrone Wade to gather information regarding offering benefits to same-sex partners following the Amendment One vote.
James said he spoke to Wade last week and asked him when he would render a legal opinion on the matter.
James said he was told it would be sometime before October before James gets an answer.
Wade could not be reached for comment last week.
“I want there to be no doubt that the question was asked and that government either responded appropriately by eliminating benefits or they didn’t, and therefore can be sued.
“My questions and their responses provide a trail that someone who wishes to sue can use,” James said in a phone interview with the Observer last week.
County commissioners voted in 2009 to extend health benefits to same-sex couples beginning last year. Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Attorney General’s office, said the only request for a legal opinion on domestic-partner benefits has come from the Charlotte city attorney.
The Charlotte City Council voted in June to include benefits for same-sex partners of city employees, a first for the city.