Lawmakers Back Away From Penalizing or Protecting Gays
Poll: Most Dont Want N.C. Laws Focused on Orientation,
Observer, October 8, 2001
P. O. Box 2138, Charlotte, NC 28233
By Mark Johnson, Raleigh Bureau
RALEIGHA new American Civil Liberties Union
brochure answers 14 questions about being homosexual in North Carolina, and
the first is whether N.C. law makes it illegal to be gay.
The answer: No.
N.C. law doesnt single out homosexuals by name for punishment, nor does
the law extend specific protections to gays. The reality of how N.C. law
works, however, is not so middle-of-the-road.
A majority of Charlotte-area residents dont want laws that target
homosexuals. In a Charlotte Observer/NBC6 News Carolinas Poll, 68 percent of
respondents said the state does "not need any laws that apply ONLY to
Many lawmakers in the General Assembly espouse the same attitude.
"Its just not something thats even gotten on the radar screen
this year," said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.
Lawmakers, however, approved legislation in 1996 that prohibited the
recognition of same-sex marriages, a measure that affects only homosexuals.
Two years ago, legislators rejected efforts to add homosexuals to the
groups protected by the state hate crimes law. That statute increases
penalties for offenses committed on the basis of the victims gender, race,
religion or national origin.
"Youre moving to protect a particular behavior" by trying to
include homosexuality in the hate crimes statute, said Bill Brooks, president
of the conservative Family Policy Council. "Its an attempt by (gays)
to gain legitimacy, a legal legitimacy, for their lifestyle."
Gay rights advocates retort that religion is a choice or behavior yet is
protected under the hate crimes law and other statutes.
"This is a non-issue," said Jo Wyrick, executive director of
Equality North Carolina, a gay rights political action committee.
Legislators fear if they back gay rights "that they will lose votes or
lose their seats," said Sen. Jeanne Lucas, D-Durham. "They think its
so highly controversial that the public in their district will not support
The Observer/NBC6 poll surveyed 796 residents in the Charlotte region about
a variety of issues, including laws pertaining to homosexuality.
An overwhelming majority, 76 percent, said a private employer should not be
allowed to reject a job applicant because he or she is gay. By a slightly
larger majority, 79 percent, respondents said a landlord or homeowner should
not be permitted to refuse to rent or sell a home to someone because that
person is a homosexual.
No state law, however, prohibits those kinds of actions.
"I dont see it as discrimination," said Rep. Russell Capps,
R-Wake. "They should have the freedom to decide who they want to (hire
In addition to a lack of protective laws, homosexuals face selective use of
the states "crimes against nature" law, which makes sodomy a
felony offense. Both oral and anal intercourse are sodomy.
Child custody decisions sometimes hinge on whether one of the adults has
engaged in illegal conduct. An opposing lawyer can argue that a gay parent is
presumed to commit sodomy.
Many leases allow the landlord to terminate the lease if the apartment or
house is used for illegal conduct.
"A landlord can say, Im not going to rent to a gay couple
because theyll probably use the premises to commit a felony,"
Wyrick said. "If a straight couple rents an apartment the landlord will
never ask what theyre going to do in their bedroom."
Despite the lack of success in the legislature, Wyrick said groups like
hers are encouraged by public attitudes, as evidenced by the Observer/NBC 6
"The majority of people in North Carolina dont approve of
discrimination in any form," she said. "And (they) certainly dont
approve of the idea that someone could be denied a job or denied a place to
live based on their sexual orientation."
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