By Virginia Bridges
The Durham County commissioners passed a resolution this morning reaffirming their commitment to providing benefits to same sex couples. The unanimous vote came after speakers, including two county employees, expressed concern about the future of domestic partner benefits after Tuesday’s vote on Amendment One,
Last month, commissioners tabled a resolution that would have put the board on record against Amendment One, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state. County Attorney Lowell Siler recommended the move after the Durham County Republican Party questioned whether the resolution would violate a state law that prevents counties from using public funds to endorse or oppose a referendum, election or a candidate. Siler said he was concerned about commissioners taking a stand after early voting had already started.
Four of the five commissioners have said they oppose Amendment One. Pam Karriker, who is not running for re-election, said today, “I am for the amendment, however, I have no desire or intent to take anyone’s benefits away.”
County attorneys also said today they don't think Amendment One will affect the county’s domestic partner benefits. Siler said that the county should be able to continue to provide the benefits until it receives legal guidance, such as a precedent set by a future court case, that says otherwise.
The county provides domestic partner benefits to 10 county employees out of a workforce of about 1,800 people.