Society

Chattanooga Council Passes Ordinance to Expand Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of City Employees

| by Allison Geller

An ordinance passed last night in Chattanooga, Tenn. that expands benefits to domestic partners of city employees, including same sex couples. The measure passed 5-4 as expected, despite an ethics complaint filed by a leading Christian activist against Chris Anderson, the councilman who introduced the ordinance.

Charles Wysong filed the ethics complaint against Anderson on Tuesday, the day the ordinance was voted on, News Channel 9 reported. He wrote that Anderson should not be allowed to introduce, discuss or vote on such an ordinance.

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Wysong also wrote that Anderson would benefit financially from the ordinance in a violation of the Chattanooga code of ethics, according to The Chattanoogan.

"It is clear that the amount of remuneration for which he would gain eligibility is considerable, measuring in thousands of dollars per year. The financial gain is not insignificant, and it is a central thesis of the ordinance."

Despite opposition, Anderson was allowed to vote on the bill, and it passed its first reading 5-4 in his favor that evening, after two months of public debate.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that the bill will be up for a final vote next Tuesday.

Anderson’s bill will expand city employees' medical, dental, vision and voluntary life insurance benefits to their domestic partners, as well as updating the city's nondiscrimination clause on sexual orientation.

Opponents argued that the bill bypasses the state constitution, and that it will incur too many costs to the city and be used more by heterosexual couples than gay couples. Other opponents, such as District 5 Councilman Russell Gilbert, cited personal or religious beliefs. Gilbert stated, "I believe in male-female marriage and it is sacred to God."

Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem of District 9, who cast the tiebreaking vote, stated of the employees the bill would benefit, which include firefighters and police officers: "We have people that put their lives on the line but are we treating them as full citizens?"

If the bill passes a final vote, Chattanooga will be the third city in Tennessee to expand such benefits to same-sex couples, after Collegedale and Knoxville.

Sources: News Channel 9, Chattanoogan, Times Free Press, WBIR