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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 12 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 37
City of Winston-Salem recognizes same-sex marriage
Section One
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City of Winston-Salem recognizes same-sex marriage

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The city government of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will now recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions where they are legal, and give equal spousal benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees.

In an August 28 letter to city workers, Winston-Salem Human Resources Director Carmen Caruth said the city would recognize all marriage licenses from any U.S. jurisdiction, regardless of whether the couple is same- or opposite-sex.

In her letter, Caruth cited the ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage and the subsequent statement by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper that he would no longer defend his own state's laws against same-sex marriage.

'This means that if you are currently married to someone of the same sex, and have a valid marriage license from any state or U.S. jurisdiction, you can enroll your same sex spouse and children in all city benefits &' Caruth told city employees in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Winston-Salem Journal.

City Manager Lee Garrity said that the change was put into effect after receiving advice from Angela Carmon, the city attorney.

'What the city attorney indicated was that she felt comfortable with us going ahead and covering any marriage where there was a marriage license,' he said.

According to QNotes, 'it's the first time a city or other jurisdiction in the state has fully recognized legal, out-of-state same-sex marriages.'

Legally married couples regardless of gender can sign up their spouses during a special enrollment period ending October 31.

Unlike some other North Carolina cities, Winston-Salem does not extend domestic partner benefits to unmarried couples, but the City Council is holding hearings on a revision of the city's benefits package.

Garrity said the city does have same-sex couples who have gotten married in states where that is legal, along with other same-sex couples who, for various reasons, have not attempted to get married.

Garrity added that he was now opposed to domestic partnership benefits, since same-sex couples would be accommodated if they get married. It would be more expensive, he said, to give domestic partners benefits, because such a rule might also apply to opposite-sex couples.

Winston-Salem is the home of several colleges and universities, including Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University, a historically African American school. It is the fourth-largest city in North Carolina.

North Carolina bucked the pro-equality trend in the 2012 election, passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by a lopsided 61% to 39% margin. Three same-sex couples filed suit in April seeking to overturn the ban, and they were joined in June by a coalition of progressive religious groups.

North Carolina is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court, which ruled in July that a similar Virginia law was unconstitutional.

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