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NC Senate Approves Bill Allowing State Officials to Discriminate Against Gay Couples on Religious Grounds

The North Carolina Senate voted 32-16 on Wednesday to approve a bill allowing courthouse officials to recuse themselves from marrying gay couples if they have religious objections to doing so, the Fayetteville Observer reports:

Flag_ncThe legislation stems from federal court decisions this past fall that legalized gay marriage in North Carolina. Some magistrates, who officiate civil marriage ceremonies, and assistant registers of deeds, who issue marriage licenses, for religious reasons did not want to perform these services for gay couples. They were told that their oath to uphold the U.S. constitution requires them to do so anyway.

Most Republicans voted for the bill; most Democrats voted against it. Supporters said the bill say it protects the employees' First Amendment freedom of religion rights. Critics said would codify discrimination into state law.

Seven or eight of the state's magistrates have left their positions as a result of having to perform gay marriages, according to statements made during senate debate. The new law would allow them to return to office without losing their benefits.

Other points in the bill are a requirement of the court system to ensure magistrates are on hand at least 10 hours a week, that all couples seeking lawful marriage can have one, and that if local magistrates don't want to perform a gay couple's marriage the state would send one to perform the duty.

NC paper News & Observer is not pleased with it:

Sworn public officials have to do their duty, and this not-so-clever bit of legislating is certain to be found unconstitutional. Magistrates and registers of deeds don't get to cop out of their jobs based on their personal beliefs.

This is amateur hour at the General Assembly, and a petty action that could get expensive. The legislature already has spent nearly $100,000 to have outside lawyers appeal the federal rulings on same-sex marriage. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wisely decided not to press on with appeals once the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue.

The bill now heads to the House.


North Carolina Conservatives Relying On Transphobic Robocalls To Defeat Non-Discrimination Ordinance

750px-Flag_of_North_Carolina.svgThough North Carolina Family Action claims to be a nonpartisan, “research and education” organization, the group has been actively engaged in a harmful, discriminatory robocall campaign spreading misinformation in an attempt to defeat an upcoming LGBT non-discrimination ordinance. 

The calls, which have been going out to thousands of voters living in Charlotte, claim that supporting the ordinance will lead to policy changes that will allow men and women to use the opposite sex’s bathrooms. The messaging is a transphobic attempt to instill fear of a law that would, in actuality, block public establishments from refusing patrons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In those instances where people were harassed or denied service, they would be able to file complaints with some hope of legal recourse.

“This does not allow men to go into women’s bathrooms or women to go into men’s,” said Scott Bishop, chairman of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, told the Charlotte Observer. “Transgender women are women, and transgender men are men. … That’s where the misunderstanding is – who transgender people are. A lot of public education needs to take place.”

Opponents to the ordinance plan to gather at a rally next week and are already working themselves into a delusional frenzy claiming that transgender people will be uniquely positioned to become sexual predators should the law be put into effect. The fervency with which the law’s opponents are attacking North Carolina’s queer community, explained Charlotte Business Guild president Chad Sevearance, is a diversionary tactic that could ultimately hurt the state economically.

“Fortune 500 companies believe that LGBT (employees) are the best and the brightest,” Sevearance told the Observer. “(Before coming to Charlotte), they’ll be looking at how their people are going to be protected from discrimination.”


North Carolina Catholic School Fires Gay Teacher: VIDEO

Lonnie Billard

In yet another case of anti-gay discrimination in Catholic schools, Charlotte Roman Catholic diocese, North Carolina fired teacher Lonnie Billard (above left, with his partner Rich) after he announced his engagement on Facebook, reports the Advocate.

Before his dismissal, retired Billard had continued to work as a regular substitute teacher in Charlotte Catholic High School.

Although the diocese has claimed that the school made the decision, Billard has challenged this version of events:

“This was not a decision by Charlotte Catholic High School. I had talked with one of the administration officials. He knew [about the engagement announcement]. He didn’t care. He said he knew me to be a good teacher and a good person.

“Apparently there were a couple teachers there who are super-conservative Catholic. They are not friends of mine on Facebook, but they found out about it and escalated it so it got to the diocese.

I knew the Catholic Church is behind the times when it comes to understanding and acceptance of gay people, but I thought with the current pope saying, ‘Who am I to judge?’ that maybe things would be better, but apparently that’s not the case.”

According to diocese spokesman David Hains, Billard was not fired for being gay but for violating an employment contract that prohibited him from opposing church teaching.

However, responding to objections from the diocese on the facts as presented by Qnotes, the Charlotte-based LGBT community newspaper stated:

“The violation of Billard’s contract was his statement on his intention to marry. Without this statement, Billard wouldn’t have been fired. Therefore, it is factual and accurate to report that Billard was fired because he is a gay man who announced his intention to marry his same-gender partner — an act the church calls ‘disobedience,’ but which is also a fundamental human and civil right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, as recently upheld by North Carolina’s U.S. District Courts and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

In March of last year, an assistant theology professor at Charlotte Catholic caused a furore - and a backlash from parents and students - when she claimed in a speech that homosexuality occurs mainly as a result of pornography and parents' shortcomings.

Watch a report on the case, AFTER THE JUMP... 

 

Continue reading "North Carolina Catholic School Fires Gay Teacher: VIDEO" »


North Carolina GOP Lawmakers Ask Supreme Court to Review Gay Marriage Ruling

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GOP lawmakers in North Carolina, joined by newly sworn in U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (above middle) and the National Organization for Marriage, are asking the Supreme Court to grant review of the ruling that brought marriage equality to the state back in October, The Washington Blade reports:

In a 35-page filing, the top lawmakers in the state legislature — President Pro Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger and Tillis in his capacity as House speaker — make the case for review in a petition for certiorari before judgment.

“The current push to redefine marriage to encompass same-sex relationships would remove several of the other key components of the institution of marriage,” the brief states. “It would remove biological complementarity, therefore depriving a significant number of children of being raised by both of their biological parents and removing them from a structured household with both masculine and feminine influences.”

The petition is an unusual move because the federal appeals court considering the lawsuit, in this case the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, has yet to issue a decision on lawmakers’ appeal of the marriage ruling.

But lawmakers argue that Supreme Court review of the North Carolina case at this stage is warranted because the Fourth Circuit already erred in its decision against Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage by ignoring the 1972 decision of Baker v. Nelson, a marriage equality case the Supreme Court refused to hear for lack of federal question.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declined to hear a similar petition for certiorari before judgement from Louisiana. The high court is expected to announce whether it will take up a Sixth Circuit case tomorrow.

Read North Carolina's petition below via Equality Case Files:


Five North Carolina Church Members Indicted In Kidnapping, Assault Of Gay Church Goer: VIDEO

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A Rutherford County grand jury indicted five members of a controversial North Carolina church on Tuesday for kidnapping and assaulting a fellow church member because they believed he was possessed by "homosexual demons," reports Raw StorySarah Covington Anderson, Adam Christopher Bartley, Robert Louis Walker Jr., Brooke McFadden Covington and Justin Brock Covington were indicted on charges of second degree kidnapping and simple assault of 21-year-old gay man Matthew Fenner; Anderson also was charged with assault by strangulation.

Fenner told WSPA News that he has been a member of The Word of Faith Fellowship Church since the age of 16. Fenner says he was threatened with confinement for two days, slapped, strangled and verbally assaulted on Jan. 29, 2013 in what the group deemed as an attempt to "free him of his homosexual demons," with Sarah Covington Anderson questioning Fenner about his "sin." Fenner documented his harrowing assault in a court affidavit.

Said Fenner:

"By this point, Sarah began to tell me how much she couldn’t stand to be around me and that I was disgusting because of my sexual orientation. I told her that I was sorry that I didn’t know what she wanted me to tell her and to which she then slapped me with a great amount of force across my left cheek. At this point I was really starting to get scared.

"I had at least 15-20 college age men around me, screaming, shaking me, punching me, hitting my chest, grabbing my head, telling me to repeat different phrases, all of which caused (and have resulted in much) mental distress to high levels."

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 6.00.58 AMWSPA drove to the Word of Faith Fellowship building on Tuesday to interview members of the group about indictment, however they were met with "No Trespassing," signs and barred entry. The church's attorney, Josh Farmer, answered WSPA's inquiries through email.

Said Farmer:

"They are innocent of the charges leveled against them and we look forward to proving their innocence and to their complete vindication before a trial court. We are adamant that no one ever physically harmed Mr. Fenner ... The church does NOT target members who are gay."

Fenner's mother and brother, who are currently still members of the church, testified against him in court. Patrick Covington, a gay man and brother of one of the accused, said he left the church with Fenner, but he denies that any abuse ever took place.

Faith in America, an organization geared toward ending harm against LGBT youth and families from misguided religious teachings, investigated the church in the past and found Farmer's statements about the church contradictory reports Qnotes. FIA says the church compares homosexuals to the “demon-possessed," and notes that the church’s website stated, "Those who were once drug addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals, etc. are now delivered by the power of God and are living normal lives, serving God and doing his will," in 2012; the statement was later updated and dropped the mention of homosexuals from the statement. Fenner remains vigilant and hopes his case sheds light on the church and others like it that perpetuate violence.

Said Fenner:

"This is the only way that I can get my voice out there to say look, this kind of stuff is happening. It happened to me and it just kind of sheds some light onto the things that are going on in there and that people do know, but can't really have the facts to go with it."

Watch a news report on the disturbing story, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Five North Carolina Church Members Indicted In Kidnapping, Assault Of Gay Church Goer: VIDEO" »


Lesbian Couple's North Carolina Home Labeled with Anti-gay Slur on Google Maps: VIDEO

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North Carolina Teen Google Maps His House and Finds Anti-Gay Slur on Home Address: VIDEO

A 17-year-old teen found a nasty surprised when he Google mapped his Canton, North Carolina home reports The Advocate. Dakota Bonham, son of Jennifer Mann and Jodie Mcdaniel, switched to street view and found their home address renamed to "Fagits live here." The couple expressed shock and surprise and say that they've never encountered any hostilities from neighbors in the four years they've lived on Hilltop Farm Road. The couple contacted Google to remove the heinous, albeit misspelled slur from the site.

Said Mann:

"My son was on Google Maps at school when he (searched) 'street view' for our address and it said, 'Fagits live here.'"

"I just thought, 'Are you kidding me?' I tried to contact Google, but I was put on hold forever and ever and ever. This day and time, with people and hate, you just can't live your life."

Google finally took action when The Asheville-Citizen Times asked Google to remove the slur on behalf of Mann and McDaniel. The description stayed on the site for at least a month before it was finally removed on Wednesday.

McDaniel previously had a window sticker of two pink deer face to face, and that decal was visible from the street when the Google street mapping car came by last summer reports Asheville-Citizen TimesIt's unclear who authorized the change; it's possible that the change was created and authorized through Google Map Maker by fellow peers as Google only moderates "high-profile," features however, Map Maker's guidelines do state that obscene and profane content is not allowed. 

Bonham, who has two other siblings ages 23 and 15, expressed disgust over the discovery.

Said Bonham:

"I was just like, 'What the hell?' It's just kind of messed up. They should kind of grow up a little bit."

Watch Mann and McDaniel's interview with WLOS-TV News, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Lesbian Couple's North Carolina Home Labeled with Anti-gay Slur on Google Maps: VIDEO" »


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