Polk mirrors state on Amendment 1

Published 4:55 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

Part of the crowd of almost 200 people who attended the Polk County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, April 2. (photo by Leah Justice)

North Carolina law professor Maxine Eichner, Reef C. Ivey II Professor of Law at UNC School of Law, says the amendment could prevent insurance companies from offering insurance benefits to same and opposite sex domestic partners. They say it could also put in jeopardy the state’s right to allow same-sex or opposite-sex unmarried couples the right to make medical decisions if a partner is incapacitated, the right for domestic partners to make funeral and burial arrangements, inheritance rights if one dies without a will and the right to be named guardian if a domestic partner becomes incapacitated.
The 2010 Census reported 222,800 unmarried couples in North Carolina, an increase of 55 percent over the past 10 years. Of the unmarried cohabitant households, 88 percent were opposite-sex and 12 percent were same-sex, according to census reports.
Domestic partnerships can include same-sex couples who cannot legally marry under North Carolina law, opposite-sex couples who delay marriage and middle-aged and older opposite-sex couples who decide not to marry, some of whom may have been previously married.
The marriage amendment issue came to a head this week in Polk County, when a resolution in support of the amendment was placed on the board of commissioners’ Monday, April 2 agenda. Emails and Facebook messages from local Republicans and Democrats regarding the agenda item helped to draw a crowd of almost 200 people to the commissioners’ meeting. The meeting had to be moved to the courthouse from the Womack building after the crowd exceeded the 160-person limit in the Womack meeting room.
Commissioner chair Ray Gasperson, vice-chair Renée McDermott and commissioner Cindy Walker voted to remove the resolution from the agenda. Commissioner Tom Pack, who placed the resolution on the agenda, and commissioner Ted Owens, voted against the removal of the resolution (see full text of resolution on page 8).
During public comments on non-agenda items at the end of the meeting, 18 residents spoke on the issue. They were nearly split on opinions regarding the amendment, with 10 residents speaking in favor of the amendment. Many of those speakers voiced strong opinions against gay marriage.
Another eight residents either spoke in favor of commissioners removing the item from the agenda or in favor of all North Carolina citizens having equal rights, including the right for gays to marry.
Pack said he put the resolution on the agenda because it’s something he believes in. He and Owens stated their disappointment that other commissioners would not allow the resolution to make it on the floor.
When she made the motion to take the item off the agenda, McDermott said what the proposed resolution tries to do is establish an official governmental religious view for Polk County.
“What Article 1 of our constitution makes plain is that the governing body of Polk County cannot pick and choose and establish one religious view over all others.”
Don McIntyre said he was disappointed in commissioners for removing the resolution from the agenda, especially after they saw the number of constituents who gathered on Monday.
“Your decision to not support it was a no-confidence vote in the word of God,” said McIntyre.
Margaret Johnson thanked commissioners for taking the resolution off the agenda, saying it had nothing to do with Polk County government.
“It was aimed at stirring up political theater and picking a fight in an election year,” Johnson said.
For example, Johnson said, a Republican sent out an email falsely stating that Democrats were busing people in from Asheville for the meeting. For the record, she said, “Local Democrats made no such effort.” Johnson also noted the Republican Facebook page, which she said included the statement, “Now the Democrats will get bit by the resolution Tom Pack has placed on the agenda for the Monday night commissioners meeting…. This is hysterical. Kudos to Tom Pack.”
Rick McIntosh came to the microphone with the Bible and said our country was established on “this book.” He said the Bible has dictated our judicial system, what’s law, what’s crime, how we deal with each other and whether or not we pay our taxes.
“Everywhere this book speaks of marriage, it’s with man and woman,” McIntosh said. “It’s not enough to believe in God. We need to believe God. He says a marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Patricia Gass said she believes in liberty and justice for all and opposes the amendment. Gass, who studied psychiatry, said her professor taught that we are all born on a sexuality scale somewhere between 1 and 7. Statistics show most of us fall somewhere in the middle, she said. She said it is as impossible for a gay person to change his or her sexual orientation as it is for her to change her heterosexual orientation.
“We need to accept the fact that we are born one way or another,” Gass said. “How can we vote to make it illegal?”

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