James makes no apologies for 'homo' question about
12:00 pm
Wed December 16, 2009

James makes no apologies for 'homo' question about Leake's dead son

In 2011, the spouses of Mecklenburg County gay employees will be eligible for the same benefits as heterosexual couples. The County Commission approved the policy Tuesday night in a 6-3 vote.

Republican Commissioner Bill James was one of the three who voted against the policy. But he's spending a lot of time discussing a question he posed to Commissioner Vilma Leake's regarding her dead son.

WFAE's Greg Collard reports.

After about 90 minutes of debate, Commissioner Vilma Leake spoke up for the first time in support of extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of gay employees.

She invoked the memory of her son.
"And to think about, one, that I had a son that I birthed that I died of AIDS, and I did not know that in 2010 I would be sitting here to defend that process and his lifestyle, so I stand gloriously to vote for this issue....:

Then, a smiling Bill James leaned over and spoke to Leake.
"Your son was a homo, really?" James said.

Leak quickly shot back: "You're going to make me hurt you. Don't do that to me! Don't talk about my son!"

James declined WFAE's request for an interview. He said he's lost his voice after last night's lengthy meeting, and speaking this morning to Keith Larson on WBT-AM.

At first, James told Larson that he was in the process of saying "homosexual," but was cut off by Leake. He changed his story after Larson played a clip of the exchange that made clear that wasn't the case.

"Look, I don't care if I said 'homo.' I don't think it changes the reality of it. Whether I said, 'is he a homo really or is he homosexual, really?' - I'm OK with either one of those"

And James went on to say:

"When she used the reason for her vote, the fact that her son had engaged in lifestyle and had died of HIV/AIDS as the reason for her vote, I was curious about what lifestyle she was talking about because usually you don't use the term 'lifestyle' to refer to a blood transfusion."

In an e-mail to WFAE, James also called Leake a "religious hypocrite." The reason? Because her deceased husband was a bishop in the AME Zion church, which James says has historically opposed homosexuality.

And he added: "She used her son's 'lifestyle' and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify in public voting for benefits to allow more individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the very behavior that resulted in her son's death."

James and Leake often disagree. But Leake says she was shocked by James' comments. And she doesn't buy that he was trying to understand what she meant by referring to her son's "lifestyle."

"No, no, no. He was not he said exactly what he intended to say. It was an insult and it was unacceptable for a commissioner to say that about anybody's child, and he said it publicly."

Commission chairwoman Jennifer Roberts has called on James to apologize, but Leake says she doesn't know if she'd accept one.

In any case, it doesn't sound like James is interested in apologizing.

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