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IBM, which employs thousands in the Triangle area, doesn’t want North Carolina to adopt a controversial religious freedom bill that opponents say would allow discrimination against the LGBT community.

The company’s senior executive in North Carolina, Robert Greenberg, wrote a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory noting the company’s opposition, as reported by WRAL earlier this morning.

From Greenberg’s letter:

IBM has a large number of employees and retirees in North Carolina and is gravely concerned that this legislation, if enacted, would enable discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or identity. We call on members of the Legislature to defeat this bill.

Our perspective is grounded in IBM’s 104-year history and our deep legacy of diversity and inclusion — a legacy to which we remain strongly committed today. IBM is opposed to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We urge you to work with the Legislature to ensure that any legislation in this area is not discriminatory.

Several other tech companies have spoken against the bill, which would allow businesses to choose who they do work for based on religious beliefs. Opponents have said that essentially is a license to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. Similar legislation that became law in Indiana ignited a national firestorm of opposition.

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst wrote earlier this month that his Raleigh-based company embraces diversity and called the oroposed North Carolina legislation “divisive” and harmful to the state’s economy.

Ltr_NCMcCrory_RFRA_040715.pdf by NC Policy Watch

News

marriage amendmentEarlier this week, State Senate President Phil Berger and former House Speaker Thom Tillis filed a petition for review at the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to overturn the October decisions by federal district court judges in North Carolina rejecting the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The federal court rulings followed the July decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Bostic v. Schaefer, overturning a similar Virginia ban.

Tillis and Berger then intervened in two North Carolina cases for purposes of appeal after state Attorney General Roy Cooper refused to move forward, saying that the courts had now settled the question.

A third district court judge in North Carolina has also rejected the state’s marriage ban, but did not allow the lawmakers to intervene for purposes of appeal. That case, along with the two now before the nation’s highest court, is winding its way through the Fourth Circuit but is not part of the petition for review.

In October, the nation’s highest court refused to take several appeals overturning state marriage bans, likely because at that time all of the underlying decisions reached the same conclusion and no circuit split existed.

Since then, though, the Sixth Circuit has upheld bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, creating the necessary split of authority on the issue.

The justices have been considering petitions for review in cases out of each of those states and may decide as early as this Friday which, if any, they will take. If they do hear any of the appeals, argument will likely be in April with a decision expected near the end of the term in late June.

Notably, the justices did refuse on Monday to take a case out of Louisiana which, like the North Carolina cases, had not yet been reviewed by the circuit court of appeals.

As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston notes:

The Court’s denial of review in the Louisiana same-sex marriage case is not a reliable indicator of the Court’s current interest in the authority of the states to ban same-sex marriage. The couples in the Louisiana case had asked the Court to bypass the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and take on the case without waiting. The Justices’ response probably indicates a desire not to intrude into the review by the Fifth Circuit, which held a hearing on the Louisiana case, and two others, just last Friday. The Court seldom chooses to bypass appeals courts, although it clearly has the authority to do so.

State Rep. Tim Moore, sworn in as the new House Speaker yesterday, will now take the place of Tillis in the petition. Moore has long opposed gay marriage and has said that he and his Republican colleagues “owe it to the voters” to take all steps to uphold the state’s ban.

Recent polling shows, however, that most state residents now favor gay marriage.

The petition, though filed on January 9, was not docketed by the court until Tuesday. Read it in full here.

News
Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

The man found in a Greensboro hotel beaten and with burns on over 50 percent of his body has died from his injuries.

Stephen Patrick White, 46, died Saturday from the burns and injuries he sustained Nov. 9, when police believe Garry Gupton, 26, attacked White in a hotel room, according to QNotes, a Charlotte-based LGBT news publication.

White, an Army veteran, had been in critical condition at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, with burns over 50 percent of his body. Parts of both of his arms had been amputated following the Nov. 9 attack, according to the Associated Press.

White and Gupton were seen leaving Chemistry Nightclub, a gay club in Greensboro, hours before police and firefighters were called out to a hotel where White was found Nov. 9 with serious burns over 50 percent of his body.

Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

Gupton, who works for the city of Greensboro’s water department, was arrested by police at the scene, and is expected to face a murder charge following White’s death Saturday.

Greensboro police do not believe the attack was a hate crime. Several national outlets had erroneously reported last week that Gupton went to the club that night intending to find someone to harm.

Greensboro police have refuted that, and said they don’t know why Gupton attacked White.

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman told N.C. Policy Watch Thursday. “There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

The AP also spoke with Alex Teal, White’s longtime partner, who said White was injured in 2005 when he was working as a security contractor in Iraq. White had been in the Army in the 1980s, and also worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Air Marshal Service.

News
Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

UPDATE: Greensboro police say no evidence links to attack being a hate crime. (Scroll down for more information.)

A Greensboro man is in jail facing charges of seriously beating and burning a man he met earlier at a gay nightclub.

Garry Joseph Gupton, a 26-year-old Greensboro water resources employee, is facing a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury, according to jail records and  this article by Matt Comer of Qnotes, a Charlotte-based LGBT news publication. Jail records show Gupton is being held at the jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

The 46-year-old victim Stephen Patrick White, who is also a military veteran, was beaten and burnt on over 50 percent of his body from the Nov. 9 attack at a downtown Greensboro hotel. A friend told QNotes that White has had his hand and part of his arm amputated as a result of injuries from the weekend assault.

An employee of the Battleground Inn in Greensboro called 911 around 4:30 a.m. after hearing a man screaming at the hotel at the same time a fire alarm went off, according to QNotes.

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Police have not described the circumstances preceding the attack, and no charges have been filed indicating the attack may be considered a hate crime. A call to the Greensboro police department seeking additional information was not immediately returned Thursday morning.  (see update below.)

Equality North Carolina, a gay rights group, said in a news release that it is monitoring the investigation.

“We do not yet know the full details of this crime, but anytime a person is harmed, especially in such violent fashion, it is a tragedy regardless of circumstances,” Equality NC director Chris Sgro said in a written statement. “Equality NC is in communication with the Mayor and the City of Greensboro to determine exactly what happened and make sure that the crime is fully investigated.”

A fundraiser will be held this Saturday at the Chemistry Nightclub, 2901 Spring Garden St. in Greensboro, and all proceeds from the door, and tips from the bar and drag shows that night will be donated to help White. Online donations are also being accepted here.

UPDATE (12 p.m., Thursday): Greensboro police told N.C. Policy Watch late Thursday morning that they do not believe that the attack was a hate crime, where the victim was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman. “There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

Some national outlets in the LGBT community, including the Advocate, have reported that the attack was premeditated, a conclusion that police believe is incorrect.

“We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently,” Danielsen said. “This is not a crime motivated by hate.”

Danielsen said more charges may be filed in connection with the fire that was set in the hotel room.

Gupton is in custody in the Guilford County jail, and could not be reached for comment.

(Note: this post has changed from the original to reflect that Greensboro police do not believe White was robbed in the course of the attack, contrary to what was reported in QNotes and other publications.)

Commentary

Robert PittengerThe story of Congressman Robert Pittenger’s clearly genuine but remarkably disturbing comments in favor of the right of employers to fire people because of their sexual orientation just keeps getting weirder. Now, Pittenger is a denying the substance of the comments that he once “stood by” and that were recorded in full. Think Progress has the full story:

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) is now claiming that he did not make comments supporting anti-LGBT employment discrimination, as reported by ThinkProgress earlier this month.

At a town hall event in Ballantyne, North Carolina, ThinkProgress asked Pittenger: “Do you think businesses should be able to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian?” He replied that businesses should have the “autonomy” to fire workers for being LGBT, and asked rhetorically: “Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

The Charlotte Observer picked up the story, and reported that when they called Pittenger to confirm the quotes, the congressman “stood by his comments.” Read More