Upon further review, the Starkville Board of Aldermen, most of them at least, would like you to know that God doesn’t hate gay people; he just hates giving them health insurance. He is not real keen about Starkville’s Chief Administrative Office Taylor Adams, either. And mayor Parker Wiseman? Please, don’t even go there.
Tuesday night, the board of aldermen met before a standing-room-only crowd that spilled out into the hallway in what proved to be a memorable evening.
It turned out to be a fascinating four hours of bare-knuckle politics, the Gospel and raw emotion. We heard from Jefferson, Plato and Jesus. Lots and lots of Jesus.
I will cut to the heart of the matter to say that, when it was all said and done, the city amended its new health insurance plan from “Plus One” to “Plus One, But Not One Of Those People.”
As it is written, the aldermen giveth, the aldermen taketh away.
Two weeks ago, the city adopted a new health plan that would extend coverage to employees who wanted to add an adult dependent at a reduced rate at the employee’s expense, a measure that was extended to same-sex couples. That proposal passed unanimously.
But the fireworks were just beginning.
Alderman “Prayin” Ben Carver, a man who has developed a reputation for voting until he gets it right, called for a special meeting of the board to revisit the decision, but his motion to rescind the “Plus One” agreement failed for the lack of a second.
Alderman David Little explained that his decision not to second Carver’s motion during that meeting was because two aldermen – Roy A Perkins and Henry “Chosen by God, Elected by Ward 7” Vaughn could not attend. Little said that he felt the decision was so important that it required the vote of the entire board. Perhaps. Or maybe a better explanation is that Little could count.
A vote at that special meeting would not have produced the outcome Carver and Little preferred because on Tuesday, Perkins and Vaughn were half of the decisive four votes to rescind the “Plus One” decision.
Tuesday’s meeting, then, was mostly theater.
For more than an hour, citizens on both sides of the debate used their allotted three minutes to make their cases. Truly, aldermen were given much to ignore.
On one side, those who were in favor of retaining the city’s “Plus One” policy argued that the aldermen had acted wisely in extending health insurance to same-sex partners of city employees.
On the other side, it was a steady procession of those who are convinced giving gay people health coverage was an affront to Christianity. Hate the sin. Love the sinner. Hope he doesn’t get sick.
The Bible was quoted liberally and loosely on both sides, by citizens, alderman and the mayor alike.
Little, Carver and Vaughn took the time to brow-beat Adams and Wiseman for not being more forthcoming as to the implications of the new health coverage during the infamous Sept. 2 meeting because — let’s face it — “Plus One” is a difficult concept to grapple with, apparently.
It was clear that Little and Carver, especially, had been getting an earful from their more pious constituents, so Tuesday was a chance to make amends. Their argument: “We’re not idiots; we were simply deceived by the crafty mayor and CAO.”
When, at last, the vote was taken, Carver, Little, Perkins and Vaughn voted to rescind the “Plus One” provision for same-sex benefits, with Jason Walker and Scot t Maynard voting no. Lisa Wynn abstained shortly after talking about the big blue chair she likes to sit in and “detox” after board meetings. Yes, it was that kind of night.
Ultimately, the concept of equal rights for gays suffered a blow.
Christianity didn’t fare so well, either.
The contract may say, “Jesus Saves,” but it was the fine print that a handful of local ministers went to great lengths to point out during Tuesday’s meeting.
Apparently, terms and conditions apply.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.