Pinehurst, N.C. — A Moore County woman has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and removing three lawfully placed political signs after she was spotted last month removing signs against a controversial ballot initiative on marriage in North Carolina.
Heidi Thompson, 44, of West End, was arrested Wednesday, after a motorist reported seeing a woman and her daughter pulling up the signs April 18 on Morganton Road in front of the Country Club of North Carolina.
Thompson said Thursday that she was driving home after picking up her 13-year-old daughter from school and removed them after signs supporting the marriage measure had disappeared from her yard at least two dozen times.
"I didn't feel like I was stealing signs at the time," she said. "I just looked at it as picking up trash along the side of the road."
The issue has to do with the definition of marriage in North Carolina.
State lawmakers passed a bill last year to add to the May 8 primary ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage between a man and woman as the only legally recognized union in the state.
Supporters say an amendment would, in part, protect marriage from activist judges who would have the power to change the legal definition to give gay and lesbian couples the right to wed.
Amendment opponents argue that same-sex marriage is already banned in North Carolina and that the vaguely worded measure could have unintended and far-reaching consequences on other segments of the population, including couples in other forms of domestic partnerships.
"I know it's making me look like a bad parent, but we've taught that it's not right for men to be married to men and women to be married to women, so we stopped and picked them up," Thompson said. "Had I known it would be such a political issue, I wouldn't have done it."
Pinehurst Police Chief Earl Phipps said the delinquency of a minor charge was the result of Thompson's daughter, who was not charged, removing signs at the direction of her mother.
Police have received only one other report in the past month of anti-amendment signs being removed, he said, but investigators had no witnesses.
In Thompson's case, police had the rare witness who caught someone in the act.
There is nothing political about the charges, Phipps said.
"We don't weigh any favoritism one way or another in an investigation. We look at the evidence," he said.
Thompson, however, disagrees.
"I just think they're making a statement out me," she said.