Live from Town Hall - gay rights edition

Tonight the Chapel Hill Town Council's regular meeting will include the Town's legislative agenda, which contains support for gay marriage, and protecting GLBT people from hate crimes. "Christian" activists will be coming in from out of town to speak against this agenda.

The Wilson Assemblage is also on tonight's agenda, stick around to see if the Council buys the developer's giant drive-through proposal.

Anyone who is at Town Hall, watching the meeting on TV, or would like to be here is welcome to post their comments here.




That's it, the lot is full.

Chambers are about 1/2, 2/3rds full.

Cal Horton doesn't think there will be any problems, just a big crowd. There's more of a mix of people - hard to say what the ratio of pro-civi rights citizenry, anti-marriage visitors is now.


Spoke with a couple UNC students who are involved with organizing the signs in the lobby.

They asked that, if you don't make it here (or even if you do), to consider signing this organizations petition on befalf of equality and the repeal of the DoMA.

There's about 24 seats left to fill and you still have time to zip on down. Parking is available in the Town Hall's lower lot and along adjacent streets. It's a nice night out , so you can perambulate if that's your want.

OK, how many of the well-dressed folk that just filed in are journalist and how many are 'bloggers?

Seats are almost filled, a crowd is forming on the periphery.

i'm here sitting, only room for 180 people, only 26 people can stand in the auditorium, the rest have to sit in the overflow room.

As Will said, the place is packed. It's prettty clear who is here from out of town. There is a long line of African Amreican men curving around the back of the room and out the door. Pardon me if this sounds arrogant, but I don't know any of them. This makes me pretty confident that most or all of them ain't from around here.

A fire official is now making a count and everyone who exceeds the 180-person (?) capacity of the Council chamber will be made to go to "the overflow room." I wonder where that is.

legislative agenda (#6) moved to the first item.

ground rules: groups have to have signed up in advance, individuals have 2 minutes for remarks.

Hazen Ham (of Call2Action) has 10 minutes. He has a powerpoint presentation! Ugh.

Mr Ham, Ph D (in what?) has made the assertion that the room is full of his like-minded supporters. He represents a group called the "Community Challenge". He's going to speak on the Damage of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Constitutional Amendment and a need to change this state ( "this state needs lots of change").

The fire marshall just made an announcement that we were over full and threw a number of folks out into the overflow room.

Celebration Assembly of God, with the encouragment of their pastor Ron Wood, has turned out in force.

I probed one of their members rather pointedly on his support for the DoM - to understand his need to support the DoM, but he didn't have a list of problems - he said he came to support his church.

I think it's great that a local church has come forward instead of some group from outside the community.

The mayor is beginnign the meeting and with Council's consent will move the legislative agenda to the beginning of the meeting.

The ground rules: "organized groups" will be given 10 minutes to make presentations. Everybody signed up also gets to speak, and should try to speak for less than 2 minutes. That won't be hard for me, I have but one point to make: this community supports gay rights.

Dr. Ham of Call 2 Action of Orange and Durham counties is speaking. He claimed to represent "most of the people in this room" until the crowd broke out in a loud grumble. He backed down.

He says his people represent Orange, Durham and Wake.

Does anyone know if this guy lives in Chapel Hill? I bet a six-pack that he doesn't.

Ham's list of many churches who "are represented" here only includes about 4-5 local churches. NO VERIFICATION OF THIS.

Now the sermon begins...

the evils of gay marriage, children without two parents, the unborn, etc etc

This is not a church, this is a house of government! I am apalled at the inappropriateness of this.

This guy's presentation is pretty weak.

Now he is taking a courageous stand: he says that God does not hate fags. Congratulations!

I am surprised at how emotional this is for me. I don't often confront this kind of insanity so directly. (And I work for Planned Parenthood - the object of a LOT of religious hate.)

I am just shocked at the use of this place owned by the citizens iof Chapel Hill for this outrageous religious agenda! It's awful.

Mr Ham, Ph D - Whoops, it's a family affair. This guy represents a number of counties - not local. He has a list of churches that he claims to represent - one of the council members asked if the list had any local churches on it - he hemmed and hawed before having to call out to the audience at large to get some help. A few people volunteered Abundant Life, St. Joe's, Celebration, one more I didn't catch.

BTW, there's a guy behind me whispering amen under his breath after every statement made by Ham (like the statement "we're responsible for the breakdown of marriage").

Now the crowd is joining in with amen's as he condemns this community for their allowing marriage to fail because of homosexuality....

He startes with the standard bit about "love the sinner, hate the sin". This is the closest I've come to attending a camp meeting in the last decade.

He wants "the Church of Jesus Christ to come out of the closet" which got somewhat an emotional response.

Mayor Foy interjects that if the emotion overflows, people on either side will be escorted out.

If we had traditional values we wouldn't need a support of marriage act. He's asking the legislature to support marriage and tradtional family values. He (I think) wants to legislate those values - on behalf of "real" Christians he's asking that the council doesn't oppose any further actions to legislate his type of morality.

Now the citizens are speaking. The first two are pro-gay rights. I think we'll see a big change in the room now.

It's going to be very hard not to applaud...

Mayor Foy has asked that there be no further outburst after a speaker came forward and pled that the Council support laws that protect the rights of all our citizens. She pointed out that she was strongly Christian, had been a nun 22 years and further pointed out that her brand of Christianity encompassed all people (wasn't exclusionary I believe was the thrust).

The last speaker asked the supporters of gay rights in the audience to stand. That was pretty much the other half of the room.

There is a guy in the audience giving me a dirty look after seeing me stand up.

Former Orange County Commissioner Don Wilhoit is the first straight person speaking out in support of the Council. Right on.

Who needs 'Survivor'? It's about to get rowdy in here!

I'm bad on names, sorry. I'm a slow typer.

He made a comment about Mr. Ham's inability to use the F** word (as an aside to pointing out that he's called that as he walks down the street in Chapel Hill).

A quick aside. So far one of the most twisted moments so far is when Mr. Ham asked Councilmember Kleinschmidt to say what the Phelps clan had to say about homosexuality - he prompted Kleinschmidt to say F**. Someone in the audience asked Ham to "make his own presentation" and challenged him to use that despicable term.

Mr. Ham left it hanging...somewhat strange...but he did attact the Christian right's fringe element and distanced himself and his organization from that fringe...yet then turned to using similar rhetoric clothed in a velvet glove.

One last thing. After Ham we've had repealer after repealer stand forward. All have identified themselves as Chapel Hillians.

About 10 speakers in, ALL are supporting the Town Council's agenda (against the "defense of marriage act" and for protecting gay people from hate crimes).

I'll disagree with Ruby a little here. The religious arguments are going both directions. Sure, some of the people here are from the wing that thinks Jesus would "hate the sin, love the sinner" and the other wing seems to be of the mind that the best of Christianity is about holding out an open hand to all of us. This wing has been saying things like "humility before the divine", "don't judge others".....

Yes Will, but everyone after Dr. Ham has supported the legislative agenda. I didn't say they were anti-Christian.

I think the point is that they are all in support of the Council's action, regardless of how they feel about homosexuality in general. I also think that this is important, because it's a sort of "common ground" for a lot of people. In other words, they recognize the importance of equal rights, even if they don't like homosexuals.

Man, this is an emotional meeting. I feel all choked up. And it's hot in here. Everyone is pretty religious. Even the people in support of Chapel Hill's stance. Interesting that every individual speaker so far has been speaking in support of Chapel Hill.

Considering that we've had three ministers now stand and speak for the repeal of DoMA - you could wonder how Mr. Ham is taking this...

I do know how some of his followers are taking it (they're standing behind me). They don't think that the minister in front of them now is their kind of religious leader (I didn't catch all the epithets, so I'll leave it at that).

I guess you're either "with them or against them" even if you share the same religon.

I've noticed one other element of the religious representation here - so far %100 Christian, pro-or-con.

Great comment - "easier to tear down then build up" "it is noble to recognize" the humanity of others....

"Consider giving a hand to those who need it"...."the high road is always a climb"..."it's worth the climb...."


Jane and I are sitting in the section not exactly in support of Chapel Hill. In any event, I've emailed the man sitting next to me the URL to this column which I thought some others of you might enjoy: Marriage in the March of Time (Colbert I King, Washington Post Saturday, February 12, 2005; Page A19).

Ham was the opening act.

Here comes Rev. Ron (he's the guy with the RED TIE - ouch!). He claims that Chapel Hill isn't the kind of place that follows the Bible...that this isn't the kind of place that wants to follow the's him and his crew against those sinning citizens of Chapel Hill...a place where he has to work hard to develop his kind of Christian community (I'm assuming that since there's been at least 6 other religious organizations on the other side of the issue that he doesn't consider them part of his continuum of Christianity).

OHHH!! Man, lots of mean-spirited comments when a lesbian speaking before the Council said that she was made in "God's image". Youch!

I feel bad for Ray Gronberg of the Chapel Hill Herald. He has a grumbling fundamentalist sitting on one side of him, and grumbling me on the other side.

Get ready, Ruby!



That was awesome! You certainly showed that this is NOT a Chapel Hill movement.

What is everyone looking at to their right? The Ham guy? People standing?

Susan Wagonner up. Lifetime member of the town that's hard to convert (ala Rev. Ron) Chapel Hill. She's very proud of the council's support.

Ruby started out saying that defeating the DoMA was a Chapel Hill value. She reminded everyone that Chapel Hill led the way by electing the first openly gay Council member. She said that this was the best of Chapel Hill values.

Then Ruby made a slam dunk. She asked that all the Call to Actioneers that vote in Chapel Hill stand - 7-8 out of 30 or more of the Actioneers. Boy, I'm glad she didn't hear the guys mumbling behind me - they really didn't like that....

After calling the Actioneers out she turned to the Council and said "I think my point is made."

Do it for the chuldrun!

I'm at the town council meeting being described in this thread. I am struck by the following:
1) The speaker for the anti-gay group - Call2Action - is using Orwellian double speak so popular in our current presidential administration.
2) So many eloquent and passionate people are defending the town council's actions. Their words are inspirational and moving. Their numbers far out weigh the anti-gay people from outside of Chapel Hill.
3) OUR community of Chapel Hill is an inclusive place that truly loves everyone.
4) GLBTQ people are our friends and loved ones. We are their allies. When they hurt we hurt. When they are happy we are happy.
5) Less than half the people here supporting the anti-gay group Call2Actoin vote in Chapel Hill. (As determined by their standing count.)
6) Marriage is not the foundation of our nation. It is the right of non-Christians too.
7) This event is not gays against straights. Lots of hets here showing love for their GLBTQ community friends.

Yow! The mumblers are getting tired. Wow! When the current speaker said that Jesus was about love, that he didn't say anything about homosexuality, one of the Actioneer's mumblers actually exclaimed - "woman doesn't know nothing..."

Current speaker (who doesn't vote in Chapel Hill) claims he represents the children of Carrboro and Chapel Hill. He asks that the Council to " protect these children ". I'm not sure from what....

Roland is up - a welcome break as he asks for the town to be granted the right to tax events....

Roland Giduz is a uniter! Who woulda thunk it?

He's actually here to plug for his pet issue:

But he makes a good point, we are all united in suport for the tarheels! Woo hoo!

This meeting is like an intervention. The pro-Chapel Hill crowd are really trying to take the high road, not fighting, but trying to educate. It has been really validating, satisfying.

Brian, I did a quick count and I'd say it was about 7-8 voting Actioneers to about a total of 30 or more.

Another blogger here - wonder if he'll link in to this discussion....

Council is beginning to discuss the legislative agenda.

*ahem*...State alum...*cough*

I thought there were more speakers, but they have moved on to Council discussion.

Somehow the repeal of DOMA was left off the legisltive resolution. Ooops! That's an unfortunate mistake. One which I am sure the Council will rectify shortly.

Councilman Kleinschmidt is pointing out that the Amendment is so broad that the town's current policy of "equal treatment of all employees" could be attacked under this Amendment. He said that the town made this decision over 10 years ago and that it''s in the Town's best interest to retain this policy.

Ruby--saw you on TV--nicely done.

And mad props for Reverend Rick--That man baptized BOTH my babies.

Gotta admit--watched Hamm's presentation for under 2 minutes. Man got on my LAST nerve. Watched long enough to know how the spiel would go...and he hit every cliche I was expecting in the first 2 minutes.

Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt is making the points that:

#1 All they are asking to recommend the repeal of the DOMA, which doesn't change the fact that gay people already don't have the right to marry in Chapel Hill.

#2 This issue is about the Town's right to provide benefits as one the largest employers in town.

Now Councilmember Sally Greene is speaking. She says we should generally try to give people more rights, not less. She also has some concerns about the keg registration proposal (which I think is a ridiculous idea).

Re: the keg issue, why don't they just put serial numbers on them instead of names, etc?

The crowd is getting antsy now that the Council is dealing with ALL of the business on it's legislative agenda - not just the hotbutton.

Councilwoman Greene brought up the 4th Amendment issues associated with the keg registration law. Mayor Foy suggested that the council defer "weighing in" until after a more full-fledged law is drafted.

To those not following the issue, the keg registration law, as it stands, would allow anyone designated by the state to look at the list of people who purchased a keg and then to go check on those people absent any legal problem.

Ward's in a huff now because the Mayor wants more specificity. Ward doesn't think
that the 4th Amendment issue rises to enough of a problem to defer approval.

Sally Greene is pointing out that the language isn't drafted for this yet and that this isn't an up or down vote - like the other items.

Ward is flushed - I believe he's pretty upset.

OMG, Councilmember Cam Hill pointed out that the clock on the wall has actually stopped!

The divine hand?

Cam Hill just pointed out that the Council Chambers clock stopped at a quarter-til-eight.

What's scary is that's when Rev. Ron was at the heigth of his invective.

Was this the point where the clock was turned back on Chapel Hill?



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