Durham is one of the most queer-friendly cities in North Carolina; part of that is a direct result of having elected officials who have stood firmly on issues on LGBT rights.
Not every candidate in today’s Durham municipal election though would continued this stance of principled pro-equality leadership.
Durham City Council in 2002 made the brave and sound decision to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners, but this decision wouldn’t have been made if it were the choice of mayoral candidate Sylvester Williams or City Council candidate Victoria Peterson.
Any Duke students who are registered voters in Durham county can vote tomorrow between 6:30 am and 7:30 pm. Rides to the polls will be offered during this time frame from the West Campus and Yearby Bus Stops. Check your voting precinct online and get more information about the races at sites.duke.edu/dukethevote . We are still in need of a few volunteers — contact Elena at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
Mayor Race — (Bill Bell vs. Sylvester Williams)
The differences between Bill Bell and Sylvester Williams on LGBT issues are as clear as night and day. Bill Bell has publicly stated his opposition to Amendment 1. In contrast, not only does Sylvester Williams support Amendment 1, his rhetoric on the LGBT community is incredibly bigoted; he goes so far as to claim that having a city that tolerates LGBT individuals fosters an ‘immoral’ climate that causes additional crime.
This is an excerpt from a WRAL article: “Williams said he wants to be a moral force for Durham, citing a recent City Council vote supporting same-sex marriage. The vote sent a message to local gang leaders and others that the city isn’t serious about crime, he said. ‘They say, ‘How can you say you support these things, which (we) consider to be immoral, then tell us what we are doing is wrong?; he said. I think there is a moral issue that is also involved in this crime issue we have in Durham.’”
City Council Race — Choose 3 of 6 candidates (Diane Catotti, Steve Schewel, Donald Hughes, Eugene Brown, Victoria Peterson, Solomon Burnette)
Catotti, Schewel, Hughes and Brown have said they oppose Amendment 1, Burnette abstains from stating a position (a more detailed account of his reasoning can be found on his Indy Week Candidate Questionnaire), and Peterson actively supports the amendment.
Peterson has been well-known in Durham for her vocal opposition to gay rights.
She opposed a statewide ban to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals, saying it would encourage LGBT employees to “come to work dressed one day looking like a female and two weeks later looking like a male.”
In 2003, she served as president of an organization called Christians for Morality in Government, a group created to oppose Durham county extending same-sex partner benefits.
“Many of them are infected with diseases, and their lifestyles are very, very dangerous,” Peterson told the board. “Many don’t live to be senior citizens. Who’s going to pay this expense if they get sick in their gay lifestyle?”
She also said, “approving these health benefits for sodomites ought to be illegal because the law does not recognize sodomy.” Peterson threatened to sue the county over the passage of the measure.
It would be great if Peterson was absolutely a fringe candidate with no chance of being elected. However, in the municipal primaries, she came in 4th of the 6th candidates. The three candidates winning the most votes Tuesday will be City Council members, meaning she only has to overtake one opponent to make it onto the Council.
More on the defense of LGBT rights in politics
Obama’s office has published a great timeline of the actions he’s taken to support the rights of LGBT individuals in his time in office. Check it out!