Openly gay North Carolina mayor pushes marriage rights
April 03 2004 1:00 AM ET
The openly gay mayor of Carrboro, N.C., wants the town to go on record supporting same-sex marriage. Mayor Mike Nelson will submit a petition to aldermen on Tuesday night calling on the state legislature to repeal portions of the state's Defense of Marriage Act. The measure defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and specifically states that same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries are not valid in North Carolina. Nelson has proposed changes that would allow North Carolina municipalities to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside the state and afford those
couples the same employment benefits as other married couples. The Chapel Hill town council discussed a similar proposal two weeks ago after receiving a petition from council member Mark Kleinschmidt, who has been in a relationship with Nelson for several years. The council is expected to make a decision later this month.
Nelson considers same-sex marriage the "civil rights issue of our day." His proposal would allow Carrboro to extend employment benefits to a married gay couple if one partner worked for the town, Nelson said. "The issue is about our own employees," he said. "It's an issue of state legislation interfering with municipal government's right to treat employees equally." Alderman Diana McDuffee noted that Carrboro has been a pioneer in obtaining rights for same-sex couples. Nelson's petition is a logical next step, she said. "It's in a direction our board is very comfortable supporting," McDuffee
Two men in Durham County requested a marriage license from the Durham County register of deeds on March 22 but were rejected because of state law. State legislation repealing the Defense of Marriage Act is unlikely in the near future, Nelson said. "This is not an issue that our state legislature could issue a bill on this year," he said. "[But] it's important to get the process started so groundwork can be laid for the future."