City Has Concerns About Wording Of Domestic Partners Benefits Referendum, But Election Panel Approves It

Friday, June 27, 2014
Election panel deals with wording on domestic partners ordinance
Election panel deals with wording on domestic partners ordinance

The Election Commission, at an emergency meeting on Friday morning, once again approved the wording on the city's Domestic Partners Benefits ordinance, though Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett said he has concerns that it is "vague and overbroad."

It was noted that the group that led a two-week petition drive to get the vote to try to overturn the ordinance got to draft it. However, Commissioner Chris Clem, former election office attorney, said that is the way it works under state law.

Mark West, Chattanooga Tea Party leader who led the effort that came up with 7,755 valid signatures, said, "At the front end we tried to make sure that it was precise and acceptable."

Kerry Steelman, election office administrator, said the version submitted by the petition group has been approved by state election officials.

Attorney Noblett said the city has concerns that voters would be getting "a slanted version" of the ordinance. He said the full ordinance is 5-6 pages long.

Mike Walden, commission chairman, said the city has often given short versions for election ballots of long ordinances.

The meeting was called as quickly as possible because the issue arose just as it is time to print the ballots, officials said.

Commissioner Jerry Summers, another former election office lawyer, also said he had concerns on whether voters were familiar with the ordinance. Ruth Braly, another commissioner, said, "They would have to be living under a rock if they do not know about it."

Mr. Summers asked that the news media print the entire ordinance and also that the full ordinance be placed on the Election Commission website.

The wording on the ballot says:

Shall the City of Chattanooga's

"domestic partnership' ordinance

(Ordinance No. 12781) be adopted?

--- For the Ordinance providing for the extension of benefits in domestic partnerships and adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city's nondiscrimination policy

--- Against the Ordinance providing for the extension of benefits in domestic partnerships and adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city's nondiscrimination policy 

Click here for the ordinance.

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