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Article 21

By Kristen Johnson
Staff Writer
Thomasville Times

By a 4-3 vote, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners voted to reject a proposed resolution asking the N.C. General Assembly to allow a vote on amending the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Two nearly identical bills are being discussed in committees in the House and Senate — House Bill 55 was referred to the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 3, while Senate Bill 8 was referred to the Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 31.

Commissioner Larry Potts made the motion to approve a resolution originally presented by commissioner Fred McClure. The motion was seconded by commissioner Cindy Akins.

The vote was conducted before a standing-room-only crowd of well over 230 people. The crowd spilled from the main meeting room out into the lobby near the elevators, and jammed hallways to the right and left of the meeting room doors.

“In the past, commissioners have passed resolutions and forwarded them on to Raleigh to let the legislators know where we stand,” McClure said. “This is not something uncommon for us. This has nothing to do with a lot of the conversation that has taken place here tonight — we’re just asking that it be put before the voters of this state.

“To make no decision is, by itself, a decision.”

McClure repeatedly pointed out that the resolution he was proposing did not make any definitions, but simply asked for the state Constitutional amendments to be put before the state’s voters.

Akins agreed with McClure.

“Everyone should be able to vote on this,” she said. “This ought to be put before the citizens.”

“We’re only asking that people be given the right to vote on amendments to their Constitution,” Potts said.

But the other three commissioners felt differently, arguing that the commissioner’s chamber was not the proper place for such discussion.

“My parents have been married for 67 years,” commissioner Dr. Max Walser said. “Every one in my family is married to someone of the opposite sex. I’ve been Christian all my life.

“But I would rather this discussion be taken to the home and to the church rather than put in this room. I don’t believe this is an issue for county government.”

“This is not a local issue per se,” commissioner Fred Sink said. “The federal government has put this on the state’s shoulders, and that’s where it belongs.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Brother David Hedrick of Hilltop Baptist Church, said he had petitions signed by more than 3,340 people asking that the proposed amendments pass.

“Don’t you think that more than 3,000 people would have a greater voice in Raleigh as opposed to seven people?” Sink asked. “Contact your local legislators and make your voice heard that way. Three thousand voices is a lot louder than seven.”

Commissioner Sam Watford was perhaps the most direct of all the commissioners in expressing his opinion.

“I trust in God and believe in traditional marriage,” he said. “But I will absolutely decline to debate morality while in this room and while serving in a governmental capacity. It’s not the time or the place for it.

“I refuse to use the religious and moral values of the majority of Davidson County’s citizens for my personal and political gain.”

Watford called the question — which in governmental terms means an elected official wishes to call an end to discussion on a matter and vote.

The board was subsequently polled. Potts, Akins and McClure voted in favor of the resolution, while Sink, Walser and Watford voted against it.

There being a tie, board chairman Don Truell — former Thomasville mayor and police chief — was asked to cast a vote and break it.

“Until this meeting, I had not made up my mind,” he said. “We know the gay community is a minority. That much is a fact. The Bible is the greatest book there is, but there is a Constitution, too. Sometimes, I think people forget just what the Constitution is there for — to prevent the rights of the minority from being trampled by the majority.

“Whatever we do tonight will have no effect on Raleigh’s decision. But if you have more than 3,000 people supporting your view, you don’t need to be here in this room — you need to be in Raleigh.

“Everyone claims to be against gay people. Why must we persecute them? Who should throw the first stone? Not this board.”

With that, Truell voted against the resolution.

According to supporting material included in the meeting agenda packet, 13 states passed amendments to their respective constitutions dealing with same-sex marriage. In 2000 and 2002, one state passed amendments each year, while two were passed in 1998.

All amendments have passed by a combined average of 70 percent, and the federal marriage amendment is favored by a 2-to-1 margin nationwide. In southern states, that margin increases to 3-to-1.

Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona and California are other states expected to consider similar amendments soon.

Information on House Bill 55 or Senate Bill 8 is available from the NC General Assembly website, www.ncga.state.nc.us.

(April 29)

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