Judge Rules Domestic Partners Ordinance To Proceed As Drafted By Petitioners; Rally Set In Support Of Ordinance

Monday, July 7, 2014

Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas on Monday morning ruled that the Domestic Partners Ordinance referendum will proceed as drafted by the group that gained signatures to put it on the ballot.

The judge ruled after hearing arguments on Thursday afternoon and considering the issue over the weekend.

The city of Chattanooga and Lt. Corliss Cooper and oartner Robin Smith had sought  to have wording drafted by the city explaining the ordinance put on the ballot instead of the shorter version that will now go forward.

The start of the printing of the ballots had to occur by noon today to have them ready for the Aug. 7 election.

The new city policy, which allows benefits to same-sex or live-in partners of city employees, was set to go into effect the first of July. However, it was put on hold due to the referendum.

Meanwhile, a rally was set at the steps of City Hall today at 5:30 p.m. in support of the ordinance. Those set to take part included City Council members Moses Freeman and Chris Anderson.

The group said, "Fair-minded elected officials, faith and community leaders will rally today to demand equal protection for all city of Chattanooga employees."

The policy was approved by the City Council in a 5-4 vote.

The petition drive was led by Tea Party president Mark West. Enough signatures were gained in a two-week drive.

Judge Thomas said he found a Tennessee Supreme Court decision that was directly on point. He said in that case involving a vote on a new form of government in Shelby County the court left the ballot referendum as originally drafted.

The judge denied a temporary restraining order and said his decision was final.

City attorneys and attorney Stevie Phillips said they would be conferring with their clients on whether to appeal.

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