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N.C., Miss. Cities to Offer Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

N.C., Miss. Cities to Offer Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

There’s good news out of two Southern cities for LGBT rights, with historic moves in North Carolina and Mississippi.

In North Carolina, in what’s reportedly a first for the state, the city of Winston-Salem announced it will recognize municipal workers’ out-of-state same-sex marriages for the purpose of employee benefits, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. Other cities in the state offer domestic-partner benefits, which Winston-Salem is considering, but city officials and LGBT activists said they believe it is the first North Carolina city to recognize same-sex marriages for this purpose.

Human resources director Carmen Caruth sent a letter to city employees August 28 announcing the benefits, the Journal reports. She cited North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper’s recent statement that he would no longer defend the state’s constitutional amendment that bans the performance or recognition of same-sex marriages, in light of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that a similar ban in neighboring Virginia violates the U.S. Constitution. North Carolina is within the Fourth Circuit as well.

Caruth sent the letter after obtaining a legal opinion from city attorney Angela Carmon, said city manager Lee Garrity. “What the city attorney indicated was that she felt comfortable with us going ahead and covering any marriage where there was a marriage license,” Garrity told the Journal. Enrollment for the benefits will begin October 31.

In Mississippi, the university town of Starkville last week became the first municipality in the state to offer domestic-partner benefits to city employees, reports The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson. The Board of Aldermen approved the measure unanimously.

Mayor Parker Wiseman also announced plans to appoint two liaisons to work with LGBT residents, reports Mississippi TV station KTVA. Starkville, population 24,000, is home to Mississippi State University. In January the city became the first in Mississippi to adopt a symbolic inclusivity resolution asserting the worth of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Several others quickly adopted such resolutions in reaction to state legislation allowing business owners to refuse to serve any customer if doing so went against their religious beliefs. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in April, and it took effect July 1.

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