North Carolina

Chapel Hill stands up for gay rights

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, March 12, 2005

If you were in the Town Council chambers last Monday night, you probably felt as Bill Strom did. "I am constantly moved and blown away by Chapel Hill citizens who stand before us and share their life experiences," he said. He referred to the dozens of citizens who came out that night to speak on behalf of the rights of gays and lesbians in the face of not only denial but further restriction of those rights under a right-wing assault.

The council's proposed legislative agenda has three items that speak to the rights of same-sex couples. It asks our state legislators to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman and to include sexual orientation as a protected category under the hate crimes law.

A handful of local fundamentalists brought in a busload of their con-freres from Wake County to preach intolerance to the Town Council. They soon learned they'd come to the wrong place. Their position received not a word of support from Chapel Hillians outside their small group.

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.

I'll Kiss Ed Harrison

at Monday night's Town Council meeting if that's what it takes to demonstrate Chapel Hill's commitment to gay and lesbian rights.

My intro is glib but the issue is serious, especially in the aftermath of the recent attack on a gay UNC student. The Herald reports today that "A Christian activist group plans to bring 200 to 500 people to Monday night's Town Council meeting to protest the council's stance on same-sex marriage." Groups like this live off and in turn breed the intolerance that leads to hate crimes.

As I discussed in my Chapel Hill Herald column of 4/3/2004, there are over 1000 automatic federal protections, benefits, and responsibilities that come with a marriage license, many more at the state level. All Americans, and all North Carolinians, should have an equal right to these privileges and responsibilities.

Here is Equality NC's action alert:

Good News on the Beer Front

Pop the Cap has been lobbying since at least last summer's World Beer Festival in Durham (which I highly recommend) to remove the 6% alcohol cap on all malt beverages produced in or imported to the state of North Carolina.

Currently only 5 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina) have this limitation, and removing it, as the argument goes, shouldn't contribute to underage or binge drinking due to the expense and rarified taste of these beers. Several establishments in Orange County stand to benefit, including Tyler's Taproom, Carolina Brewery, and Top of the Hill as well other "progressive" bars, breweries and restaurants with a hankering for Scottish Ales, German Bocks, Russian Imperial Stouts, and Barleywines.

Chapel Hill Supports Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Those who hold out the hope that local government can have a progressive impact beyond its immediate and often parochial borders must have been pleased with last night's Town Council meeting.

At Sally Greene's initiative, the Council placed the repeal of GS 95-98 on its legislative agenda. This is the unfortunate law that prevents collective bargaining by public employees.

This is not a case of liberal Chapel Hill taking a stand on its own. While Chapel Hill is the first, UE-150 is taking its campaign statewide and expects other communities to also stand up for the repeal. It make take years to prevail on this issue but a growing NC labor movement may ultimately succeed.

Bill Strom also deserves credit for encouraging UE-150 on this issue. He, along with Greene, was a member of the worker's rights board that took testimony at December 4 hearing on the union's International Worker Justice Campaign.



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