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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NC GOP Pol: Gays Are ’Sexual Predators’

By Killian Melloy -
Bill James
Bill James

An North Carolina Republican lawmaker who had previously generated controversy by referring to a colleague’s deceased son by an anti-gay expletive has spoken out against the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," warning that gays are "sexual predators" who should not be allowed to enlist in the Armed Forces.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James created friction a year ago when he referred to the deceased son of fellow County commissioner Vilma Leake as a "homo" during a debate on benefits for same-sex life partners of the county’s gay and lesbian employees. Leake’s son, who had been gay, had died of AIDS in 1993.

Leake had just delivered an address in favor of the measure. In her speech, Leake had related the story of her son. The Charlotte Observer noted in a Dec. 17, 2009, article that after her speech James addressed Leake in low tones, asking her, "Your son was a homo, really?"

"You’re going to make me hurt you," Leake replied. "Don’t do that to me. Don’t talk about my son." Leake left the room following a vote on the measure in which the commissioners approved the benefits, slated to start in 2011.

The current flap was also the result of a response to a fellow commissioner. The Chair of the County Commissioners, Jennifer Roberts, had suggested that members of the lawmaking body compose and send a letter to the area’s members of Congress to offer thanks for the recent repeal of the anti-gay 1993 law that forbade openly gay patriots from serving in uniform. James reacted by writing a hotly worded email in which he declared, "Homosexuals are sexual predators."

James went on to declare, "Allowing homosexuals to serve in the US military with the endorsement of the Mecklenburg County Commission ignores a host of serious problems related to maintaining US military readiness and effectiveness not the least of which is the current Democrat plan to allow homosexuals (male and female) to share showers with those they are attracted to."
Referring to a recent news sensation generated by the right, James went on to say, "The US Government would not allow Hetero men and women to share showers and other personal facilities yet the leading homosexual in Congress (Barney Frank) thinks it is OK for homosexuals to do so allowing enlisted men and women to fall prey to higher ranking or more powerful homosexuals who ogle them (or worse)."Frank had told an interviewer from anti-gay Christian news site CNS that keeping current gender-segregated facilities in place for military members was simply a matter of realistic practicality. "What do you think happens in gyms all over America?" Frank asked. "Of course people shower with homosexuals. What a silly issue.

"What do you think goes wrong with showering with homosexuals?" Frank continued. "Do you think the spray makes it catching? I mean people shower with homosexuals in college dormitories, in gyms where people play sports; in gyms elsewhere. It is a complete non-issue."

Frank went on to note that straight military personnel share showers with gay colleagues right now. "The notion that knowing that someone is gay or lesbian as opposed to [not] knowing that they are gay or lesbian people, that have to pretend" they are heterosexual, Frank said, "that that somehow makes a difference is pretty silly."
James has something of a reputation as an anti-gay politician. Some saw his remark to Leake as insensitive, and there were calls for an apology, but James said that he was simply trying to clarify Leake’s position. James explained that he did not intend the word "homo" to be demeaning, and only used it because it was a vernacular term with which he was familiar.

Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, was one of those who thought that James ought to extend an apology to Leake--something James has said he is not willing to do. "To be insensitive to that is completely inappropriate," said Roberts. "I think he does owe her an apology."

"People can believe whatever they want, they can believe in the tooth fairy and legend of Atlantis," James said. "I don’t determine what I do based on what people think. I determine it based on what I did and what I did was I asked a question and that question doesn’t deserve or require an apology." The article noted that this was not the first time James had stirred up controversy, citing a remark made by James in a 2004 email that city-dwelling African Americans "live in a moral sewer."

"I’m not waiting or holding my breath to receive an apology from Bill James," Leake commented to the media. "I’m not sure he understands what it means, because his values are so different from the rest of society."

James went on a media offensive, telling a local news station that Leake was "a religious hypocrite." James also sought to cast her son’s death as a consequence of a "lifestyle" that James claimed the county should not finance by providing gay and lesbian country government workers the same family benefits as those available to heterosexual married employees.

"Vilma is a religious hypocrite," James wrote to station WSOC. "She was married to a Bishop in the AME Zion church. A church that has historically opposed homosexuality," James continued. "She used her son’s ’lifestyle’ and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify in public voting for benefits to allow more individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the very behavior that resulted in her son’s death.

"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," claimed James. "Her position was that her ’faith’ demanded that she do this to support her son and his ’lifestyle’ which she acknowledges killed him.

"Since she didn’t define what ’lifestyle’ she was referring to I asked her," James went on. "Asking the question is completely legitimate since she used him as the basis for explaining her public vote."

When the county’s benefits for the families of gay and lesbian employees kicks in next year, Mecklenburg County will join several other North Carolina counties in extending such benefits to gay and lesbian employees, according to a Dec. 18 Charlotte Observer article. The other counties are Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, and Orange, with Durham, and Greensboro--like Mecklenburg--only making the benefits available to unmarried couples of the same gender. The other counties also extend the benefits to the unmarried partners of heterosexual workers. Some have questioned the fairness of only offering benefits to unmarried couples when they are of the same gender; others say that the measure is unnecessary and will not be in high demand.

Those who seek the new benefits will need to be in a long-term relationship in which their finances are shared. Both partners will be required not to be married to anyone outside the immediate relationship.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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