Equality in Buncombe County – ACTION


America = EqualityTomorrow, your Buncombe County Commission will deliberate regarding equality in their health benefits and non-discrimination policy. On the agenda: Same-sex domestic partner benefits. Also likely to be discussed is whether to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the County’s employment non-discrimination policy. The latter is not on the printed agenda, and in order to consider it according to their rules, all seven Commissioners must agree to do so.

You’re encouraged to attend the meeting on Tuesday, March 19 at 4:30pm in the Commissioners’ Chambers at 200 College Street, Suite 326 in downtown Asheville. If you’d like to email the Commissioners to let them know your position, you can use this handy list:,,,,,,

After the jump you can read the email I sent earlier today. I’m excited to see our Commissioners have this opportunity to join the march of history toward full equality for all of our citizens.

They will not know your position unless you show up at the meeting or take a moment to write your representatives.

Chairman Gantt and County Commissioners,

Thank you so much for considering equality for our LGBT citizens who are also county employees. It’s so important that we end the institutional exclusion of people just for being who they are and loving who they love. Anything short of full equality is a missed opportunity, so I appreciate your willingness to support extending employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners and adding language to your personnel ordinance that will explicitly protect various gender identities and sexual orientations.

We’ve had these policies in place in Asheville, and I’ve had many employees come to me privately to let me know how the adoption of these policies have made it a more safe and accepting workplace.

Further, since Asheville’s leadership on this, two of our largest employers – Mission Hospital and Care Partners – have adopted policies of equality regarding health benefits. I can only imagine who else will come on board once you have sent the message that equality is the ethic of Buncombe County. It will certainly send a strong message to employers considering locating here that we do not discriminate.

I understand that some folks misunderstand these policies, but I’m confident that each of you will recognize that anything short of full equality is a statement of disapproval to all of your LGBT employees and to every LGBT citizen in Buncombe County. I know there’s none of you who would tell a gay citizen that they didn’t deserve health care or non-discrimination, so I’ll be happy to congratulate you all after tomorrow’s vote.

With respect and anticipation,

Gordon Smith


  1. Sarah York says:

    Thank you, commissioners, for recognizing the importance of equality for all citizens regardless of their choices regarding family commitments. Please, please, do not discriminate against those who choose to be with same-sex partners. And congratulations for your courageous decisions on behalf of equality for everyone in our county.

  2. TJ says:

    Emails sent. Shared. Another meeting to attend. So much to do, so little time.

    But, for the opportunity to watch a historic moment, I’m there!

  3. Roger Hartley says:

    Proud to support this proposal. Emailed all and shared.

  4. Shit you not. From this month’s MSD Board agenda (pg. 57):

    “(b) Rules of Construction. Words of the masculine gender shall be deemed and construed to include correlative words of the feminine and neuter genders.”

  5. I support this and am proud to be alive to see this…We are all Equal!

  6. In the original story I read about this matter, the Commission was considering domestic partner benefits, period. Nothing specific per same-sex.

    As former Councilperson Bill Russell and I pointed out a few years ago when the City passed a same-sex benefit, it is well worth asking whether we shouldn’t provide domestic partner benefits to any employee, regardless of gender orientation. And, for that matter, it raises the question of whether we should consider the question of differential pay for singles. As a purely financial matter, if we believe in the principal of equal pay for equal work, and a single employee is doing the same work as someone receiving spousal/partnership benefits in addition to wages, then we are not offering equal pay.

    Just saying.

    And in no wise am I suggesting non-support for the existing City benefits, for which I voted. (In case anyone decides to draw that conclusion.)

  7. Gordon Smith says:

    I have heard that folks against these issues are flooding Commissioners’ email inboxes in a coordinated effort. Your fellow citizens need your aid today, right now.

  8. arrington13 says:

    That is correct Cecil, the documents indicate that the benefits are for domestic partners of 12 months or more, period. No exclusionary language. I think it’s a wonderful step towards equality for all that are in a committed relationship while also aligning with their current non discrimination policy of not discriminating based on “marital status”. That is the argument I would make in support, not same-sex vs straight couples. IMHO it pits the two against each other unneccesarily.

    I would prefer to see the non discrimination policy get a closer look instead of hoping that the Respectable Workplace document will cover any sticky situations. Given that it would take a huge vote to revisit the policy, making an argument such as the one I proposed above would potentially open the door, though I suspect if anyone felt they didn’t have the votes they’d shut it down either way.

  9. Tom Sullivan says:

    Congratulations, all.

  10. RHS says:

    Well, I’m sure Emperor Moffitt is already at work on legislation to have Raleigh overturn this. After all he can’t let all that work he did to change the way Buncombe County elected its Commissioners for over 200 years be for nothing.

    And there’s the irony. An all Democratic board, all elected at large by Buncombe County voted down this proposal last year. But after the Emperor decreed that Buncombe County should elect its Board of Commission by districts so that the perceived dominance of the evil, liberal Asheville would be done away with a board elected by districts votes to extend benefits to the non-married partners of county employees.