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Sparks Fly NC County Approves DP Benefits

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Following a contentious exchange between two Mecklenburg County, N.C., commissioners, the county board Tuesday night approved legislation to extend domestic-partner benefits to county employees.

The two-hour debate turned discordant when commissioner Bill James (pictured, right) made a comment about fellow council member Vilma Leake's (pictured, left) deceased gay son.

According to local CBS affiliate WBTV, "I did not know that in 2010 that I would be sitting here to defend ... his lifestyle," said Leake, who delivered a speech on the death of her son, who had AIDS.

After Leake's statements, James asked, "Your son was a homo, really?"

Leake responded, "Don't make me hurt you. Don't do that to me. Don't talk to me about my son,"

With Democrats in the majority, the council approved the measure with a 6-3 vote that fell along party lines. The county will begin offering benefits during the next employment enrollment period, fall 2010.

Mecklenburg becomes the seventh and largest jurisdiction in the state to offer same-sex partner benefits. Others include Chapel Hill, Durham, and Greensboro.

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