Local News

Same-Sex Benefits Catching On, But Not In Wake County

Posted September 4, 2003

— One by one, communities are offering health benefits to same-sex couples. The trend is catching on in many parts of the state, but not everywhere.

Legislation ensuring health benefits for same-sex partners passed first in Chapel Hill and Carrboro and then in the city of Durham. Now, Durham County will be the first North Carolina county to offer the benefits.

"I think it is a historic decision in Durham," said Ian Palmquist, of

Equality N.C. Project.

"I was very pleased to see it as a unanimous decision by the commission."

Equality N.C. Project is a political voice for lesbians and gays. There are some 500 members across the state.

The Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality sees momentum building across the state for same-sex benefits. But not every municipality is ready for it.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said the Capitol City is just too conservative right now to discuss the issue.

"We would consider it if some group asked us, or an employee makes a request," Meeker said. "That has not come up, and I don't see it on the agenda at present."

State Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland County, chairs a committee that keeps tabs on the health-benefits package for state employees.

"We've not had this issue come before us yet," Rand said. "I don't believe that the will is there to pass it this time."

Palmquist said his group's focus is more on discrimination than on benefits.

"In Wake County and the state of North Carolina, it is perfectly legal to fire someone simply because they are gay or lesbian," Palmquist said.

The toughest challenge ahead for the gay-rights movement is to pass an anti-discrimination law. A non-discrimination bill for state employees came before state lawmakers earlier this year and failed by one vote.

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