At a hearing concerning domestic partner benefits, Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James took a slightly different tact on the issue: referring to gays as if they were vermin. James spoke of the effort to “de-infest” areas where gays “congregate.”
According to witnesses, Democrat Commissioner Vilma Leake gave an impassioned account of her son’s 1993 death to AIDS. After she spoke, James reportedly leaned over to her and asked, “Your son was a homo, really?”
James later said that he would not apologize for his remarks. He said “homo” is just slang and not meant to be insulting. He added “[p]eople can believe whatever they want, they can believe in the tooth fairy and legend of Atlantis. 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.”
In an email, he told one resident that police were “de-infesting” areas of gays:
“Homosexual conduct is illegal in NC (even after Lawrence V Texas). We arrest 250 homosexuals each year in Mecklenburg alone for either a ‘crime against nature’ or ‘solicitation of a crime against nature’. Unlike prostitution (exchanging money), even suggesting homosexual sex is a criminal offense in NC. If we were all that ‘progressive’ would we be arresting 250 homosexuals a year? Setting up sting operations to de-infest areas where they congregate? Point is, if you want to delude yourself that homosexual conduct is ‘ok’ go ahead. The law, the police and the DA however have a different view.”
The breathtaking ignorance of the law by James is only matched by his equally breathtaking absence of decency. If 250 people are being arrested for being homosexual in North Carolina, they will have 250 constitutional claims filed against them. Moreover, while it may be a crime in Iran to suggest a homosexual act, it is not an enforceable crime anywhere in America. If he is referring to solicitation of a sexual act in a public area, it is not confined to homosexual acts.
Yet, James believes that arrest statistics as opposed to the clear language of Lawrence v. Texas controls on the constitutional debate: “When someone trots out Lawrence v. Texas, I trot out the arrest statistics,” he said. “I say if Lawrence v. Texas is the law of the land, why are there all these arrests? And that ends the discussion usually.”
When asked about his choice of the use of the word “de-infest,” James stated:
“I think that if you’re someone who is homosexual and you believe that you are born that way and have every right to engage in that behavior, I think the offensive thing, I would surmise, is not the word ‘infest’ or ‘de-infest’ but the fact that the police are actually doing the sting operations. We can parse words — what phrase should I have used? But the central question for most people is not what particular term got used but whether the action was occurring. Was I accurate in saying there are these sting operations going on and those sting operations — whatever term you want to use — target homosexual men? That is why the county took and spent significant amounts of money to rework the park to take out certain landscaping things to prevent, once the sting operations cleared them out, prevent them from re-congregating — or re-infesting if you use my original term.”
On his website, he lists as some of his favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt:
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong”
“You cannot help small men by tearing down big men”
The commissioners have discussed a reprimand for James but have expressed uncertainty what it might say or whether it will be proposed. In the meantime, gays and lesbians in Mecklenburg County are protesting James’ statements and views.
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