Stanly commissioners vote against sexual orientation, gender identity inclusion in USDA discrimination guidelines

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, July 13, 2022

With a vote of 5-1, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to show opposition to a recent determination by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding discrimination.

Commissioner Peter Asciutto voted against the resolution. Chairman Tommy Jordan was not in attendance at the meeting and did not vote on the motion. Vice Chairman Zack Almond, taking part via phone, voted in favor of the resolution along with interim chairman Scott Efird and Commissioners Mike Barbee, Lane Furr and Bill Lawhon.

Lawhon presented the resolution to the board and public as a part of Monday’s meeting.

The USDA recently added sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the prohibition of discrimination based on sex for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the food stamp program.

“This interpretation will impact funding associated with food and nutrition programs for eligible elementary and secondary education students,” Lawhon said.

The commissioner added, “if you don’t go along,” with what the USDA says, the department can “withhold funds for reduced and free lunches, which is a very expensive proposition.”

Lawhon said if the board does not go along with the USDA’s definition of discrimination, “someone’s going to have to come up with a lot of money. It’s not about the money, it’s about the children.”

The resolution states the U.S. Constitution in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment protects parents “to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children, including the right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of the child.”

Asciutto said the resolution had flaws.

“You’re basically saying that a public employee based on their religious belief can discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Asciutto said.

He said there “is a wall of separation of church and state” and he could not support the resolution.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored four times by the North Carolina Press Association.

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