As the General Assembly neared its Sept. 12 session, it was clear what areas we needed to tackle. With the state unemployment rate at 10.4 percent and devastation having visited the eastern portion of North Carolina from Hurricane Irene, the priorities were clear. But what did the Republican Senate and House leadership put on top of their agenda: a debate on marriage and the state Constitution.
The new majority in the General Assembly promised to focus on jobs. You may recall that this promise was broken early in the session when the first piece of major legislation passed by the General Assembly cutting funds from three programs aimed at private sector job creation. http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/blogpost/9057371/
Governor Perdue drew the line in the sand on the issue of jobs and vetoed the legislation The Republican leadership said they would go down in North Carolina history as the jobs party. Well, if you count job losses, they win the prize. The state is now facing a 10.4 percent unemployment rate. Nationally, unemployment stands at 9.1 percent, and the August figures mark the first time North Carolina’s jobless rate is more than a percentage point above the nationwide rate.
Special Session: Scapegoating Gay People During An Economic Crisis
During the Special Session, the General Assembly did absolutely nothing to promote job creation. Instead the General Assembly voted to put up for a vote by the people the question as to whether to place a ban on gay marriages and civil unions recognized by the state into our state constitution. Here is the proposed amendment. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S514v5.pdf
Our current law in North Carolina limits marriage to one man and one woman. I have always supported the existing law and will continue to do so. Here is the current law. http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_51/GS_51-1.html
While I believe the institution of marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman, I believe that gay adults should be able to enter into monogamous civil unions recognized by the state. Such a civil union should confer basic human rights as a result of such as visitation rights in a hospital when a loved one is sick.
The amendment passed by the General Assembly would ban both gay marriage and civil unions. As I have said in a previous newsletter, I do not think it is appropriate to use a constitutional document to limit the rights of an individual. Constitutional documents in a free society should address the powers of the government and its limits relative to the rights of individuals. Passage of this amendment will set a bad precedent and open the door for the majority to limit the rights of other minorities and individuals.
Here’s a recording of my comments on the Senate floor.
Now the matter will appear on the May 8 primary ballot across North Carolina. Earlier in our history North Carolina and Rhode Island refused to be a part of the United States until its Constitution included a Bill of Rights. I hope our voters will follow our tradition recognizing that constitutions should limit the power of the government relative to individuals and vote against this amendment.
Hurricane Irene Relief
Vance and Warren Counties were included in Presidential disaster relief declarations in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. That means that farmers are eligible for crop assistance. In addition, Franklin and Granville Counties, as “contiguous” counties to the disaster counties, were also included in a list of those available for emergency crop loans.
Emergency loans come with a 3.75 percent interest rate for 1-30 years. Farmers may apply by dropping their local Farm Services Agency (FSA) office. Farmers and ranchers may also be eligible for other assistance in Vance and Warren Counties.
Warren County FSA, 820 US 158 Bus. West, Warrenton, 252-257-4141, ext. 2.
Vance County FSA, call for an appointment, 252-438-3134.
Franklin County FSA, 101 S. Bickett Blvd., Louisburg, 919-496-3121.
Granville County FSA, 146 Main St. (in the Federal Building), Room 203, Oxford, 919-693-7345.
Applications for emergency crop loans may be made online. Call the FSA to have an application emailed to you.
Residents with damage to their homes or businesses in Vance and Warren Counties may be eligible for assistance through FEMA. Call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 for hearing impaired service or go online at www.DisasterAssitance.gov.
Residents of Vance and Warren who lost work due to the hurricane may be eligible for assistance. Call 866-795-8877 for more information. Hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.