In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Mecklenburg County Commissioners passed a controversial domestic partner benefits policy during its meeting on the evening of December 15th, 2009.
Although this was a monumental step in the right direction for equal rights of same-gender couples, it was overshadowed by the toxic hate speech of Mr. Bill James who attacked the deceased son of another county commissioner, Ms. Vilma Leake.
The discussion over the issue led to a contentious exchange of words between county commissioners Mr. Bill James (Republican) and Ms. Vilma Leake (Democrat). During the public meeting, a conversation between the two was picked up by the microphones as they sat in their chairs.
It all started after Ms. Leake made an impassioned speech about her son dying of AIDS.
"A son that I birthed and died of AIDS and I did not know that... in 2010 I would be sitting here... to defend his lifestyle," Ms. Leake said.
After that revelation, tempers flared when Mr. James leaned over and whispered something to MS. Leake about her late son and it was caught on the microphone.
Here is Mr. James' comment and Ms. Leake's response.
James: "Your son was a homo, really?"
Leake: "I'm going to hit you, don't talk about my son that way."
Again, this provocative exchange occurred in the open public meeting just before the commissioners voted to approve the policy.
On Wednesday, WBTV News requested an interview from Mr. James and in his email response, he did not apologize for the comment he made Tuesday night.
In his statement, Mr. James said that Ms. Leake was "a religious hypocrite" who "used her son's ‘lifestyle' and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son's death."
Mr. James continued to say "it is akin to someone whose son is an alcoholic and died from the disease, using his death from drinking as justification to have the taxpayers pay for more booze."
Ms. Leake deserved an apology and the community deserved one, as well. "To literally say what he said was unacceptable," said Ms. Leake.
Jennifer Roberts, Chairperson of County Commission, said the Board will discuss the possibility of censure or a reprimand for James.
"If we don't do anything, we're saying it's okay to look the other way," states Ms. Roberts.
Please sign the petition below requesting that Mr. Bill James resign or be discharged immediately.
Despite your recent success with the passage of the domestic partner benefits plan scheduled to be implemented in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina 2010, it is very alarming and terribly disturbing that such a policy was fueled by such hateful and ignorant rhetoric grounded in hate speech by Mr. Bill James.
By refusing to apologize for his discourse asking Ms. Leake if her son was a homo, Mr. James illustrates the heinous prejudice coursing through his heart, soul and mind. Such hate speech from individuals like Mr. James only helps to create, maintain and perpetuate a malignant strain of homophobia, which often precipitates into violence, within society.
The statement released by Mr. James saying that “Leake was a ‘religious hypocrite’ who ‘used her son’s ‘lifestyle’ and his death from HIV/AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son’s death,” is appalling.
With all due respect, I firmly disagree that this is matter which can easily be resolved with simple censure or reprimand. Mr. James should resign from office, or be discharged immediately. Anything less would be permanently damaging to the integrity of the Board of County Commissioners.
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."