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James Edges Driggs, Pushes To Scrap County Employee Benefits For Same-Sex Couples

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Bill James held off an aggressive challenge from Ed Driggs to win the GOP primary for the District 6 seat on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, with the eight-term incumbent commissioner capturing nearly 52 percent of the vote.

But less than eight hours after taking the win in the heavily Republican district, James’ attention wasn’t focused on his General Election opponent, Democrat Connie Green-Johnson, but on how the results of Tuesday night’s Amendment One vote would impact Mecklenburg County employee policy.

The constitutional amendment, which makes marriage between a man and a woman the “only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized” in North Carolina, easily won approval at the polls with a 61 percent margin.

In that light, James is already pushing Mecklenburg to scrap its policy that provides domestic partner health insurance benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. The county has been offering same-sex benefits to employees since commissioners approved the policy in 2009.

James fired off the following email to County Manager Harry Jones and county legal staff early Wednesday morning:

Since Amendment One has passed when will we get a memo or something that outlines what changes we need to make to our health plan to be in compliance? I recall when the Democrats on the Commission forced the issue and added these benefits for homosexuals that a number of legal experts said it was illegal then – including the City attorney. Now that Amendment one has passed it obviously is illegal to offer this benefit as there is now only one ‘domestic legal union’ recognized in the state.

Prior to the vote most scholars (left and right) said that Amendment One would eliminate local faux ‘marriage’ benefits for homosexual employees. I would cite them but you know them all too well.

Still, I would like to know when the Board can expect information on the changes Amendment One wrought (or are we going to break the law and spend scarce resources on litigation we will likely loose)?

No reply yet from Jones, or any of James’ commission colleagues, but this one should be worth watching.

UPDATE: Jones informs that the county’s “legal and human resources staffs are evaluating the Amendment, as well our policy, to determine what, if any, potential impact the Amendment will have on Mecklenburg County. As soon as we complete our evaluation we will brief the board at a future meeting on our findings, conclusions, and policy options” available to commissioners.

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