RALEIGH, N.C. — There was a standing-room-only crowd at the Raleigh City Council's afternoon session Tuesday.
The council was taking a final vote on whether sexual orientation should be considered a protected right by the Human Relations Committee. The council had voted 5-3 in favor the last time the issue came before them.
Despite overwhelming opposition in the crowd Tuesday, the council again voted in favor of the change.
The issue of gay rights had been expected to get a lot of attention at the council's 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting. But so many people came to the afternoon session that the council could not ignore them.
Council members heard the views of hundreds against special rights for homosexuals.
Jackie Bellamy, a lesbian, said she should be treated equally by all Raleigh residents, saying: "I think discrimination of any kind is flat-out wrong."
Councilman Neal Hunt, meanwhile, said he opposes gay rights. He said sexual orientation should not be part of the Human Relations Committee's updated mission statement.
"The city council is not the place to be making decisions on Constitutional issues," Hunt said. "Sexual orientation has to do with behavior, as opposed to inherent characteristics."
Hunt was so passionate about the issue that he sent an e-mail urging supporters to express their views to other council members, but to keep his name out of it.
"I feel like it would be more effective if Joe Blow did it on his own, as opposed to: 'Neal Hunt told me to do this,'" Hunt said.
In the end, the council again voted 5-3 to support the new mission statement.
The five Democrats on the council supported the change. Three Republicans opposed. Mayor Pro Tem James West voted by speaker phone from the West Coast.
For about 15 years, the city's code has included sexual orientation as a protected right. That is different from the mission statement voted upon Tuesday. Many in the crowd said they never knew that and now would like to see the city change the code.