A citizen group on Thursday launched a campaign urging voters to vote to overturn the city's domestic partnership ordinance, which grants city benefits to same-sex and live-in partners of city employees.
President of Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency Mark West said at a press conference, "Let's remember that five members of the City Council and one mayor took it upon themselves to push and pass an ordinance that not one of the six candidates ever mentioned while campaigning for office.
The conference was held to announce the launch of the Referendum Campaign, created to persuade voters to oppose the controversial ordinance that was passed by the City Council by a narrow margin.
He continued, "But once in office, they pushed an agenda that we believe is at total odds with the overwhelming majority of Chattanoogans. These five council members and the mayor were willing to defy common sense, ignore the real cost of the ordinance, and grossly expand healthcare costs on taxpayers while cutting benefits for retired city workers."
City Councilman Larry Grohn, one of the four who voted against the ordinance, said, "I do not see how it is possible for our leaders to pander to a special interest group while at the same time cutting benefits to others."
He also said, "The outpouring of opposition to this ordinance was a prime example of democracy in its purest form, and it delivered a powerful message to the City Council, which was ignored."
Bishop Mark Sandilands of the Power of Touch Church said, "We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. There is no in between. Marriage was established in the Garden of Eden by the Lord, who said that man should not be alone and he made him a helper. It was not Adam and Steve but it was Adam and Eve.
"What do we want people to see when they come to Chattanooga? What kind of lifestyle do you want them to be able to mix their family with?"
Rosalyn Hickman, co-founder of the Covenant Keypers ministry program, said, "It's not about hating on anyone. I'm thinking about our children. I'm thinking about our future...How dare we not come out and speak against something we know the Lord has ordained?"
Patrick Hampton, a youth minister at Hawkinsville Baptist Church, said, "Our message is clear and consistent. Our message is that this is not about hate or discriminating against any group. But this is about loving our city and loving our young people. It's about citizens exercising our rights to determine how and where we want to spend our tax dollars."
He said opposing the ordinance had brought together "black people, white people, democrats, republicans, Christians, Jews, and even Muslims.
"I believe placing a domestic partnership ordinance on the same level as marriages is actually a bad idea and a bad example to set for our young people. It distorts marriage, it distorts what we've been teaching our young people for the past 10 years. I believe that placing citizens' and city employees' private sexual life in public view is actually immoral."
The ordinance will be up for vote on the Aug. 7 general election ballot.