Same Sex Couples Make a Statewide Push for Marriage Equality

RALEIGH– Dozens of same sex couples delivered petitions with more than 10,000 signatures to Gov. Pat McCrory’s offices in Raleigh, Charlotte and Fletcher on Wednesday calling for him to stop supporting Amendment 1.

“There’s really no reason to fight this anymore,” said Graham Dixon, a Raleigh father seeking marriage equality.

Dixon and his husband represent two of the signatures inside the boxes full of thousands of petitions.

“We’re just interested in having the proper legal rights for our family to protect our little girl,” Dixon said.

The fathers joined other same sex couples in marching the signatures into the governor’s office at the state Capitol.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will no longer defend North Carolina’s ban in federal court, and they want the governor to follow suit.

“It’s just the inevitable at this point. Really you probably fight until you cant win and it’s that point,” said Dixon. “There’s no reason to waste anymore taxpayer money on this.”

“Our straight allies across the state and likely across the country signed this petition. So it’s a broad base of support we have on this,” said Chris Sgro, Equality NC director at the Charlotte event.

The 4th circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“It’s not going to surprise us either when North Carolina does come around, it’s just a matter of how long it takes,” said Dixon.

Virginia’s ruling could have implications for North Carolina because they are in the same circuit.

“All of history has shown the best environment for raising children is with their married father or mother. So changing the definition of marriage would deny many children of either their father or mother,” said Jere Royall, NC Family Policy Council.

Time Warner Cable News reached out to the governor’s office and his spokesman said his feelings have not changed since the Court of Appeals ruling.

“This issue will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. As of now, North Carolina’s marriage amendment remains in full force and effect. To ensure that our laws remain in effect until the final Supreme Court ruling, we call on the attorney general to request a stay in North Carolina’s pending cases,” said Ryan Tronovitch, deputy communications director.


Federal Funds Create Improvements at VA Centers in NC

DURHAM– Months after problems of delayed wait times causing inadequate care at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers came to light in the spring, federal officials now report major improvements have been made at North Carolina’s four VA medical centers and 15 associated clinics.

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs said thousands of more veterans now have appointments, patients wait times have been reduced and VA facilities can accommodate more patients.

“We can’t say there’s any improvements when we actually haven’t experienced it that much in person,” said Army Veteran David Smoak of Sanford. “But I would say the bright side from my experience is that when you actually do get seen, do get treated it’s great.”

Smoak said enrolling his wife to actually receive health care at the Durham VA took several months.

“[It took months] between sending the enrollment, them losing the form and then things started rolling along,” said Smoak.

On the ground level patients and their families have mixed reactions about whether they’ve seen any improvements.

“They got to him quickly. There wasn’t a wait. Everyone’s been great here,” said Jim Bottomly, who has not experienced any issues since taking his father to the Durham VA for surgery two weeks ago. “It’s been a real positive experience.”

Since May, officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs said more than $26 million from the Accelerated Care Initiative has been used to provide 14,000 additional North Carolina veterans 57,000 more appointments, which will take place before Oct. 1.

The funding extended facility hours and also created more space, providers and equipment.

“And we’re doing better outreach so no veteran will ever be in their community and wonder what or where do they turn to get help,” said Ilario Pantano, assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Pantano said state workers are now on the ground at three VA medical centers to assist in any way possible.

“Not just the narrow medical services they’re seeking, but questions about benefits and veterans services more broadly all taken care of in one location. So that’s a real win for veterans in North Carolina,” said Pantano.

Veterans haven’t seen changes yet believe fixing all the problems will take time.

“Cause you could have the best care in the world but if it’s not timely, that’s not adequate too,” said Smoak.

Veterans with appointments scheduled more than 60 days from their original appointment date are being called and asked if they prefer to keep their VA appointment or get a referral for community care. Federal officials said in Durham alone, 3,400 calls have been made and more than 90 percent of veterans chose to keep their VA appointment.

- Julie Fertig

President Obama: ‘We’re Creating New Culture of Accountability At the VA’

CHARLOTTE — President Barack Obama addressed the 96th annual convention of the American Legion in Charlotte on Tuesday.

He used this platform to announce a number of new measures to help veterans with healthcare, housing, education and jobs. These executive orders come on the heels of a months-long scandal with the VA concerning delays with veterans receiving the care they need and deserve.

President Obama was met with welcoming applause at the Charlotte Convention Center but got right to the issues on everyone’s minds. He acknowledged the “inexcusable delays” that ultimately led to scores of veterans losing their lives waiting for care.

The administration’s plans include:
Ramping up a recruiting campaign to fill doctor and nurse shortages at VA hospitals.

Automatic enrollment in VA treatment programs for all military personnel already receiving mental health care.

A partnership with a number of national banks, including Wells Fargo and Bank of America, to help vets get lower mortgage rates.

An initiative to better understand post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries that includes a $30 million nationwide suicide prevention study.

Obama said he hopes these steps will ensure the problems currently plauging the VA never happen again.

This evening, we will hear from veterans at the convention on what they think about the president’s speech and plans to fix the VA.

- Becky Bereiter

President Obama Arrives in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE—The president of the United States is now in Charlotte.

Air Force One landed at the NC Air National Guard base at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport shortly after 11 a.m.

President Barack Obama will now head to uptown Charlotte where he will speak to thousands of veterans attending the American Legion’s annual national convention.

There is no information on what exactly the president will say, but this speech follows the recent scandal involving delays with veterans receiving care through the VA.

Police said drivers should expect roads to be blocked in the area around the airport and uptown as the President makes his way to and from the convention center for the speech.

Authorities say they will also have to re-route pedestrian traffic around the convention center.

One of the people who will get to meet the president during his visit is a Monroe veteran who has been working for years to help fellow veterans.

Garland Denny, 82, asked the government to create postage stamps and bonds to raise money for those who have served their country.

Denny went to Washington in June to meet with members of the Obama administration.

Rep. Robert Pittenger’s office said Denny will be on the front row at the convention center for the speech and will also get a chance to shake the president’s hand.

- See more at:

Speech by Medal of Honor Recipient Begins Presidential Event

CHARLOTTE—One of the first speakers of the day at the convention was Kyle White, a Charlotte resident and recent Medal of honor Recipient, who addressed the crowd on the importance of giving back.

President Obama gave the retired Army Sergeant one of the nation’s highest military honors in May for his heroism during a four hour fight while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

White told the crowd that their service does not end when the uniform comes off.

He said he has chosen to dedicate his life to reducing the stigma surrounding post traumatic stress disorder.. his goal is to encourage veterans to seek help for their mental health… but white told veterans there are plenty of different ways to give back.

“Whether your service is working with blood donor programs, volunteering to cleanup the aftermath of natural disasters, working with the USO and Special Olympics, working on adult mentor programs, building houses with habitat for Humanity, or standing in front of people to say it is OK for service members to say they need help. Service is what defines us,” said White.

Sergeant White also handed out several service awards at the event.

Obama to Address Veterans in Trip Weighed Down By Politics

CHARLOTTE—President Barack Obama will be in the Queen City Tuesday to address the 96th annual convention of the American Legion which is underway in uptown Charlotte this week.

Air Force One is expected to touch down at about 11:20 a.m. and the President will be speaking around noon.

The president’s speech follows a months long scandal surrounding delays with veterans receiving care through the VA. The White House hasn’t given any indication of what the president will say in his speech, but many veterans will be listening for updates to such an issue that is important to them.

For President Obama, the visit to the Tar Heel State a heavy political subtext. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, is in a difficult re-election race and popularity for the President is down in NC. Hagan is scheduled to speak to the American Legion too, but her spokeswoman declined to say whether she would appear on stage with the president.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have been busy getting ready for the president’s visit this week.

CMPD isn’t releasing any specifics about the route the president will take as he makes his way through town en route to the convention center.

“It wont effect our operations at all. We’re able to absorb special events. This is part of being a fairly large city here,” said Major Jeff Estes, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Charlotte residents should expect some delays both in Uptown and near the airport late Tuesday morning and around lunchtime during the president’s speech.

Air Force One is expected to be on its way back to Washington shortly after 1 p.m.

Watch the president’s speech at 12 p.m. LIVE on TWC News and

The Associated Press contributed to this report

- Leslie Mayes

Capital Tonight Aug. 25: President Obama’s Image

On Capital Tonight: With a busy month of news during his vacation month, had President Obama’s public image taken a hit? We ask Catawba College provost Michael Bitzer. And Chris Miller and Jim Morrill join the reporter roundtable. Watch the program here.

McCrory appoints lawyer to NC Appeals Court

RALEIGH–Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed a Winston-Salem lawyer to a vacant seat on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

McCrory’s office announced Monday the governor appointed Richard Dietz to the appeals court bench.

Dietz will fill the seat vacated by Judge Bob Hunter Jr., whom McCrory appointed last week to the state Supreme Court. Dietz will serve the remainder of Hunter’s term, which expires in 2016.

The 37-year-old Dietz is a partner with Kilpatrick Townsend in Winston-Salem specializing in state and federal appeals cases. He is a 2002 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law.

McCrory appointed Dietz last year to the North Carolina Courts Commission, which studies the court system and recommends changes and improvements.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Protesters Rally Against Sale of Hofmann Forest

ONSLOW COUNTY — The university owns the 79,000 acre forest in Onslow County and is planning to sell it to a private agri-business company for $150 million.

“We are such a special place, we do not need to be selling off 79,000 acres, for pittance,” said Jessica Hult, president of the Izaak Walton League in Onslow County.

About 200 people showed up to the protests, claiming if the sale goes through, potential development of that land could harm water quality on the coast.

“We would really like it to be preserved as it is,” said protestor Jim Odonnel. “And even some of the wetlands and stuff just be protected and let them mature.”

“This land should not be developed,” said Michael Murdoch, president of the Croatan Group of the Sierra Club. “It should not have been sold. And it should have been protected for all the citizens of North Carolina rather than sold to a private developer.”

They say a leaked document revealed the buyer’s plans to develop the land into commercial and residential properties. However, N.C. State says that was never the case.

“There’s nearly two-thirds of the property that’s just purely based on local zoning laws, the Clean Water Act and the existing restrictions in place, that simply couldn’t be ‘bulldozed today or turned into strip malls and golf courses,’” said N.C. State director of University Relations, Fred Hartman.

Opponents have also sued the university, saying the sale violates the Clean Water Act.

Their case will be heard in the North Carolina Appeals Court within the next few weeks.

- Amanda Wilcox

Obama to address vets in Charlotte at American Legion Convention

CHARLOTTE — President Barack Obama will visit Charlotte on Tuesday to join the thousands of veterans in the Queen City for the American Legion’s annual national convention.

Veterans at the American Legion parade last weekend said they want to hear how the president plans to improve the Veterans Administration.

“Hopefully he’s getting it straightened up. It looks like he’s working on it but we need to get the answers and the answers now,” said Navy veteran Chuck Pinyerd.

Obama signed a VA overhaul bill into law earlier this month. It will fund more health care providers and shorten the wait times at VA hospitals.

The president was last in North Carolina earlier this year when he visited the Raleigh area to announce a manufacturing initiative to be led by N.C. State University.

Stay with Time Warner Cable News on Tuesday for complete coverage of the president’s visit to Charlotte. We will have live reports throughout the day and will carry his speech live at noon.