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Winston-Salem could pass same-sex partner benefits policy

CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum speaks to WInston-Salem councilmembers about the domestic partner benefits proposal

On July 15, the city council in Winston-Salem, specifically the Committee on General Government, Housing, and Community Development, discussed a proposal that could add domestic partner benefits to the list of benefits that municipal employees can receive. The committee outlined possible eligibility criteria for benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings to include eligible partners of LGBT city employees.

Because of a statewide ban on marriage equality in North Carolina, LGBT couples across the state don’t have access to many of the basic benefits that opposite-sex marriages offer. A growing patchwork of city-level protections across North Carolina attempts to make up for the difficulties that LGBT people and families face, while the Campaign for Southern Equality pushes forward with a legal challenge to Amendment One that would make marriage available for all.

Winston-Salem residents and the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) have been advocating for the passage of this measure for many months and are hopeful that the policy will pass when it goes to a full vote before City Council. Watch a video of the committee meeting, where local activists Brent Morin and Mary Jamis, and CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum testify in favor of the benefits policy. (Discussion of the proposal begins around 40:00.)

“We strongly encourage the city of Winston-Salem to pass a policy that extends domestic partner benefits to municipal employees,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of Campaign for Southern Equality. “At a time when discrimination persists under state laws, it is critical to ensure that LGBT employees are treated fairly and equitably.”

Here are a few highlights from CSE’s white paper on the proposal:

. . . → Read More: Winston-Salem should pass same-sex partner benefits policy

Raleigh WE DO action

Same-Sex Couples Call for Marriage Rights on 2nd Anniversary of Amendment One

On May 8 local same-sex couples will apply for marriage licenses at the Wake County Register of Deeds Office. They will be joined by legally-married same-sex couples who will pay $26 to record their out-of-state marriage licenses in order to create a public record of their legal marriage.

Trudy and Justine Price-O’Neil of Wake County are among the couples that will record their Massachusetts marriage license at the Wake County Register of Deeds office. Together for a decade, they are mothers to a two-year-old and are both teachers. Trudy Price O’Neil will be honored as Enloe High School Teacher of the Year at a ceremony on Thursday evening.

“While the federal government recognizes our marriage, it’s important to us that our home state of North Carolina does too,” says Justine Price-O’Neil. “This matters for reasons like state taxes and insurance policies, but also for our little girl to have two legal parents, and so she can know without a doubt that her family is just as valid and important as everyone else’s.”

Trudy and Justine with their daughter

The couples will be joined by family and clergy from across faith traditions, such as Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh and Rev. Doug Long, Trudy and Justine’s pastor at Umstead Park United Church of Christ, who will stand in support of them as they record their license. This action takes place two years to the day since the passage of Amendment One, North Carolina’s Constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.

Join us for a series of events this week as we stand up to Amendment One.

“Every day that Amendment One remains on the books it hurts families . . . → Read More: Raleigh WE DO action

Mary and Starr stand up to Amendment One

Mary Jamis and Starr Johnson are among the married same-sex couples in North Carolina who will jointly file their state taxes this year as part of the “Refuse to Lie” campaign; they are able to jointly file their federal taxes, which resulted in a $4,000 savings for the couple this year.

Mary said, “Starr and I are fortunate to live and work in a community surrounded by family and friends who acknowledge, support, and celebrate our relationship as a married couple. But the reality is that, due to Amendment One, we continue to be denied many of the basic rights and privileges that are afforded to opposite-sex married couples.”

Mary and Starr were married in New York last year.

As part of the “Refuse to Lie” campaign, legally married same-sex couples in North Carolina are jointly filing their state tax returns in North Carolina, despite a directive by the NC Department of Revenue for them to file their taxes as single. The federal government recognizes same-sex marriage but North Carolina continues to ban it.

Equality NC has a petition up, asking Governor McCrory to support a consistent tax policy: joint tax filings for all legally-married couples living in North Carolina.

The Refuse to Lie Campaign was launched in 2011 by Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. The Campaign for Southern Equality has expanded the campaign to North Carolina this tax season, adding a range of tax-based actions that LGBT couples and allies can take to express opposition to North Carolina’s tax policies.

Jessica and Amber

On Tuesday, March 25th in Jackson, Mississippi same-sex couples will apply for marriage licenses as part of the WE DO Campaign. Jessica and Amber are one of the those couples that will bravely walk into the Hinds County Courthouse and ask to be treated as full and equal citizens.

You can read about why they are taking this action as told by Jessica:

There are many things in this world that separate, divide, and hurt. Here in Mississippi, we see all kinds of pain and suffering on a daily basis. Poverty, illness, violence, helplessness… But there is one hope to which we can all cling, one lifeline that keeps us together, keeps us strong enough to make it through– Love. The power of Love is and has always been the common thread that holds the tapestry of humanity together, the only force strong enough to withstand the ferocity of fear. My sweetheart and I will celebrate seven years as a couple this July, and we have been truly blessed to experience this Love that weathers storms and grows gardens. That is why, as we have already done in the eyes of God, we wish to marry, this time under the law, with the same rights of marriage that other Mississippi married couples are provided. We’d like to know that when one of us has an emergency, there will be no questions about the other being by her side. We want to be confident that if ever one of us is unable to make decisions, no questions will arise about who else to turn to. And when asked if we are married, we pray for the day there will be no awkward hesitation, but a very firm and celebratory “Yes!” to anyone who asks! People . . . → Read More: Jessica and Amber

Calling for Equality in Mississippi

On March 11th, the Mississippi state House amended SB 2681 (the controversial Arizona-style anti-gay bill) to remove the broad and vague “religious exemption” section of the bill before sending the bill to a study committee. We’ll keep an eye out for further developments, but for now, we’ve beaten back this bill.

Carolyn and Christina were married at the Stonewall Inn in NYC on March 11th!

Thank you to thousands of folks all across Mississippi, like Carolyn and Christina, who took action by calling, writing and emailing their elected officials about SB 2681. Following on the heels of the fight against SB 2681, the Campaign for Southern Equality is returning to Jackson, Mississippi for a WE DO Campaign action on March 25th and a series of public events to advocate for equality.

3/21: Legal clinic at OUTLaw Conference at Ole Miss, Oxford 3/23: WE DO Campaign training, Safe Harbor UCC Church, Flowood 3/24: WE DO Campaign training, Millsaps College, Jackson 3/25: WE DO action, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., Jackson; public lecture on LGBT rights at Milsaps College, 7 p.m. 3/26: Rally for LGBT rights in downtown Jackson led by groups from across Mississippi at noon; Family Dinner (community organizing event) Hattiesburg from 7 – 9 p.m.

As we did last summer when we took action in Poplarville, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson and Tupelo, we’ll stand with LGBT couples as they step into the public square to call for full equality. Joined by family, friends and clergy, they will send a powerful message that growing numbers of people all across the South are standing on the right side of history.

LGBT couples in Hattiesburg participate in the WE DO Campaign.

You’ll find all the upcoming events in Mississippi listed . . . → Read More: Calling for Equality in Mississippi