The cost of extending benefits to city employees with domestic partners is estimated to be in the range of $168,000 per year, City Council members were told Tuesday afternoon.
Todd Dockery, city human resources director, said some private businesses and cities that have added the adding the policy have seen no cost increase. He said it would help the city in recruiting workers.
He said the city of Louisville, Ky, estimated 400 persons would be added for health coverage, but has only 39.
An overflow crowd was at the meeting to give their opinions on the subject. Those opposed got red tickets and those for green tickets. Those whose names were drawn from the pile of tickets got to speak. The two sides took turns in making presentations.
The council plans to vote on first reading next Tuesday and on second reading the following Tuesday.
Mr. Dockery said the proposed ordinance includes both same-sex and opposite sex unmarried partners. It extends to children of the employee's spouse.
Mr. Dockery said his research shows that the cost of providing health coverage to a domestic partner is not higher than to other employees.
Wade Hinton, city attorney, said there would be an enrollment period next spring and it would go into effect July 1 if it passes.
Councilman Larry Grohn, noting that the state Constitution and state policy do not recognize domestic partnerships, said the policy gives "tactic approval" to partnerships outside of marriage. Attorney Hinton said the city was not enlarging the definition of marriage.
Keith Cochran, with a red ticket, read the 10 Commandments to the council and said passing the ordinance amounts to helping achieve the goal of the Communists to break down morality in the U.S.
Pam Rumancik of the Unitarian Universalist Church said those opposing the measure were taking the position that their neighbors should have fewer benefits than themselves.
Anthony Crisp wanted to know why the policy cannot apply to brothers living together or brother and sister. Attorney Hinton said it applies to "non-platonic" relationships. Mr. Crisp said, "I see our City Council trying to implement same-sex marriages in violation of our Constitution." He said the next step would be to recognize multiple partners by Mormons or Muslims.
Michael Gilliland said if the policy is voted down that some city employees would choose to leave and others would be demoralized.
The next speaker said it was the work of the devil and morally wrong.
Jane Edgy spoke of liberty and justice for all.
Attorney Scott Bergthold said sections of the ordinance, including a section affecting speech in the anti-harassment part, violate the First Amendment. He said if a male city employee who considers himself a female goes into the women's restroom, then a female inside would not be allowed to object. Attorney Hinton said the ordinance covers those who are transgender.
Ann Weeks said, "This is about social justice. Social justice is what love looks like in public."
Tommy Crangle told the council the measure is anti-family and would weaken the family.
Leroy Griffith said the Bible stresses justice, while Robert Boykin referred to the Bible's censure of those "with a reprobate mind."
Perrin Lance called the ordinance "a good thing. This is going to support families and support unity. Spiritually, it is a a very good thing for the city to do."
Sgt. Craig Joel of the city police department said he opposes it "based on a business decision." He said the city was adding an expense, while still not fully funding police officers.
Bryce Current of the Metro Community Church said, "This ordinance is good for Chattanooga" and would help retain good employees.
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