Originally published: Feb. 16, 2009, 9:44 p.m.
Updated: Feb. 17, 2009, 8:20 a.m.
SALISBURY, N.C. — More than 100 people turned out to the Monday, Feb. 16 evening meeting of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners as elected officials took up the issue of same-sex marriage.
In a standing-room-only board chambers, members of the board voted unanimously to approve a resolution urging the North Carolina General Assembly to pass a state constitutional amendment banning any relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
“There is only one other county that I’m aware of in this state that has endorsed discrimination,” said Mona Borkowski before the meeting. “I live in a county I love. I’ve lived here 11 years. I don’t want to see that happen here.”
All board members, including the two Democratic members Raymond Coltrain and Tina Hall, said they were in favor of the resolution only because it urges state legislators to allow citizens to vote on the contentious issue of gay marriage.
The resolution had originally been placed on the board’s consent agenda, which falls immediately prior to the public comment period. As the meeting started, the board voted unanimously to remove the resolution from the consent agenda, which fell before the public comment period. It was made the first item on the board’s regular agenda, immediately following public comment.
“We are going to do the same thing we are asking the state to do,” said County Commission Chair Carl Ford, as the item was moved to the regular agenda. “We will give people the right to speak.”
Despite having a massive list of citizens desiring to address the board during public comment, County Board Chairman Carl Ford cut off the public comment period after only 18 citizens had spoken. Speakers were evenly split between those against the resolution and those for it.
“Putting the rights of a minority to the vote of the majority defies the very essence of our republic,” EqualityNC board member and Salisbury resident Rod Goins said during the public comment period. “The Founding Fathers set up our constitutional democracy to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.”
A local pastor, Garland Faw of Truth Temple Bapitst Church, spoke during the public comment. He quoted Leviticus 20:13, conveniently forgetting that particular scriptural call to put homosexuals to death. Faw was followed by Ante Pavkovic, a member of the radical street preaching group Operation Save America.
Following the vote, the board recessed for 15 minutes. Dozens of on-lookers gathered in the Rowan County Government Building to discuss the vote while at least a dozen more loaded back on to a church bus to head home.
“The citizens of the state have a voice and a right to settle this issue,” said Democratic Commissioner Tina Hall. “I support this and think that giving voters the chance to have a say is important.”
Chairman Carl Ford said that two state senators — James Forrester and Jim Jacumin — had asked every county commission to draft resolutions in favor of the marriage amendment. “I couldn’t ignore that,” he said.
Members of the Concord, N.C.-based organization Operation Save America, along with other anti-gay protesters, remained outside the building the entire evening with signs and placards condemning LGBT people to spiritual damnation.
The board’s resolution will be forwarded to members of the North Carolina General Assembly.