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In the first meeting of a new term, the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in North Carolina.
The 6-2 vote drew applause from about 30 people in the audience, including a group of leaders from Pullen Baptist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh.
"To me, it's all about supporting families," said John Saxon, an assistant minister at the fellowship. "Families come in all shapes and sizes. We ought to be about recognizing and supporting all the different kinds."
Council members John Odom and Bonner Gaylord voted in the minority.
Odom, the council's lone Republican, said he thinks marriage is between a man and a woman.
Gaylord said the city shouldn't be wading into the topic. "I'm concerned we're somewhat getting off the page with our charge," Gaylord said. "This is getting into issues beyond our purview."
That stance drew a quick response from Councilman Russ Stephenson.
"I agree we need to stick to our business," he said. "Our business is to be policy advisers and cheerleaders for our community." The amendment "is really going to put the city at a competitive disadvantage by making it harder for us to attract the best companies and jobs," Stephenson said.
The council took its position three days after departing Mayor Charles Meeker condemned the constitutional amendment in an address at a Unity Day forum. Meeker derided the proposal as "discriminatory in nature, trying to put one group down and somehow (figuring) that's going to help the rest of us. But it never helps our community when a group is put down."
Meeker urged voting out of office in fall 2012 those state legislators who backed the proposal, which will be on the ballot in May.
While the state legislature was debating the same-sex marriage amendment earlier this year, three Triangle municipalities - Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham - took the symbolic step of opposing the measure, according to the gay rights group Equality North Carolina.
In addition, leaders of seven local governments across the state that offer domestic partner benefits - including Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham city and county, and Orange County - wrote an open letter to legislators in September urging them to reject the amendment. They argued that if the amendment became law it would strip them of the ability to offer benefits to domestic partners and would hinder North Carolina's ability to recruit businesses.
Raleigh doesn't offer benefits to domestic partners, but the city is studying the issue with encouragement from a human relations citizens group.