Petition Drive On Domestic Partners Goes Over The Top; If Approved By Election Commission Will Set Up August Vote; Group Gets Over 10,000 Signatures

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The petition drive seeking a vote on the domestic partners ordinance went over the top on the final day for turning in the names.

The successful citizen effort apparently sets up a vote on the issue for next August and holds the ordinance in abeyance until then.

The petitions must still be approved by the Election Commission, which would need to set the election.

Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, election administrator, said, "Anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 people signed these petitions and there were a lot of people that worked really hard and put a lot of time to get these. We stopped counting at 171 names after the cutoff, because that was all that was needed."  

Mark West, petition drive leader, said Monday that over 6,000 names had been submitted to the election office. By Tuesday night, when he asked the City Council to repeal the ordinance, he said the group wound up with over 10,000 signatures.

No one on the council indicated there will be a revote. But several council members said they were dismayed by ill treatment toward those collecting the signatures.

Councilman Larry Grohn said when his wife was standing by Gunbarrel Road getting signatures that someone threw a can of soda at her.

Councilman Jerry Mitchell, who voted for the ordinance, said there was "no excuse" for actions toward the petition group.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, who also was in favor of the ordinance, congratulated Mr. West on the successful drive. She said, "This is truly democracy in action." She added, "I would fight for your right to do what you did. We should totally not tolerate poor treatment of those involved in it."

The total needed to force a vote next August was 4,469, which is 25 percent of the votes cast in the last city mayoral election.

The Election Commission had set a meeting for Wednesday morning, but she said that was called off because Chairman Mike Walden was not able to attend.

The ordinance, which grants health benefits to city employees with "partners", was approved by the City Council in a 5-4 vote.

Collegedale and Knoxville earlier passed similar ordinances.

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