Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James says he's not backing down from comments earlier this week describing homosexuals as "sexual predators" - even as calls increase for county leaders to take action.
"People are entitled to their opinion, and that includes me," James said Thursday. "I don't expect people to (always) agree with me. It's a political discussion and I wouldn't have raised it on my own, but Jennifer (Roberts) decided to wade in on it."
His controversial remark - which came in an e-mail exchange among commissioners about the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy - has drawn national headlines on blogs, the Huffington Post website, and news cable channel MSNBC. A petition calling on county commissioners to censure James had drawn more than 1,000 signatures on change.org, a national website for social change.
Michael Jones, the Boston-based editor of the gay rights section of change.org, said the organization would keep its petition up until commissioners take some sort of action against James' remarks. He said James has a "legacy" of making dehumanizing or anti-gay comments and people want him held accountable.
But Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, said Thursday she hasn't talked to commissioners about what action, if any, the board should take.
"The challenge is everyone recognizes that it's inappropriate language," Roberts said. "This is a repeat performance and I just don't know if it helps or hurts the end goal by making any kind of formal statement."
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