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December 17, 2009

N. Carolina County Commissioner Makes Stigmatizing Remarks During Meeting

During a meeting of county commissioners in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Bill James made homophobic remarks about a man who died of AIDS-related disease, WBTV reports.

The commissioners were voting December 15 to extend domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples. During the discussion, County Commissioner Vilma Leake made an impassioned speech about her gay son, who died of AIDS-related illness.

“A son that I birthed and died of AIDS, and I did not know that…in 2010, I would be sitting here…to defend his lifestyle,” said Leake, a Democrat.

Following her speech, James, a Republican, asked, “Your son was a homo, really?”

That led to a heated public exchange between the commissioners. Nonetheless, the benefits policy passed.

James has not apologized for his comments. He did release a statement about the incident, saying that Leake was a “religious hypocrite” who “used her son’s ‘lifestyle’ and his death from HIV/AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son’s death.”

Under the new policy, Mecklenburg County employees in a same-sex relationship where both partners live together and share financial responsibilities will be eligible to receive county benefits for their partner as long as one of them remains a county employee.

Jennifer Roberts, chairperson of the commission, said the censure or reprimand of James would be discussed.

Search: North Carolina, Bill James, homophobic, Vilma Leake

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