John M. Becker

Chattanooga Equal Benefits Ordinance Goes Down in Flames

Filed By John M. Becker | August 08, 2014 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Chattanooga, city ordinance, domestic partner, domestic partner benefits, ordinance, referendum, repeal vote, Tennessee

chattanooga-overhead.jpgThe citizens of Chattanooga, Tennessee voted overwhelmingly last night to repeal a city ordinance granting equal benefits to the domestic partners of city employees.

The measure was passed by the city council last year, but WTVC-TV reports that voters decisively rejected it by a 63%-37% margin. A total of 13,685 people voted against equal benefits for same-sex couples, while just 8,184 voted for them.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tried to put on a brave face after the vote, saying:

"I have no doubt Chattanoogans value fairness and equality, and I am proud of the volunteers who spent nights and weekends to ensure our employees are treated equally. The City of Chattanooga's non-discrimination ordinance was repealed tonight, but I want every City employee to know one thing -- your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community. Regardless of the results tonight, my Administration will continue to hire and promote the best people who provide excellent service to our constituents."

Uh-huh. You are valued and important... just not quite valued and important enough.

Mark West, the head of the Chattanooga Tea Party, is gloating, calling on Mayor Berke and the city council to "honor the will of the people": "What we want them to take away from this is that the people have spoken."

The Human Rights Campaign, which worked with the Tennessee Equality Project and other local groups to try and beat back the repeal effort, released the following statement:

"Despite this hurtful and disappointing result tonight, we know that fair-minded Chattanoogans and people across Tennessee are ready to keep fighting until full equality reaches every corner of the state and every corner of this country. As LGBT equality moves forward across this country, this work isn't over until every American can expect the same decent treatment under the law."

These days, as the LGBT civil rights movement racks up one marriage equality win after another, many people seem to think we're on the cusp of ultimate victory. This vote in Chattanooga last night shows how very far we still have to go to achieve full equality and serves as a stark reminder that we must never, ever get complacent.

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