Despite Amendment One, city of Charlotte will still offer same-sex couples benefits

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"Out of the bars and into the streets!"

On Tuesday night, a young man in glasses, a blue shirt and yellow tie led a chant made famous in 1977 by activist Harvey Milk, dubbed the Mayor of Castro Street in San Francisco. Milk led 3,000 angry gays and lesbians on a five mile march through San Francisco after a conservative-led reversal of a civil rights ordinance in Miami that made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal.

Petra's Bar on Commonwealth Avenue became a makeshift Castro Street Tuesday night after Amendment One passed.

Many bar goers took to the streets after 61 percent of voters passed a constitutional action that makes marriage between one man and one woman the only legal union in the state. While the ramifications of the amendment are still unknown, LaWana Mayfield, the first openly gay elected official in Charlotte, said the city of Charlotte will go forward with its plan to offer domestic-partnership benefits to its employees. City Manager Curt Walton has also been a proponent of offering health and wellness benefits to same-sex couples.

North Carolina is the last Southern state, and 31st overall, to pass a constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage. Amendment One, as it's commonly referred to, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

The disappointment and heartache was palpable after it passed Tuesday evening. Teal-shirted volunteers from the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families held on to each other as the local news showed the election returns. Tears and shouts of anger soon followed.

"The community as a whole missed an opportunity to make stand against discrimination and there are going to be repercussions," Mayfield said.

Like Milk, who after that 1977 march became the first openly gay elected official in the United States, Mayfield is determined and hopeful. She said the constitutional amendment will not regulate how the city views finding and retaining quality staff.

"We may be the test case where we recognize the importance of making sure all of our employees have equal access," she said. "We're not going to let this stop us."

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