Chattanooga, TN Residents Vote to Repeal City’s Domestic Partner Benefits for Gay Couples

A Chattanooga, Tennessee domestic partnership ordinance that would have provided health benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees has been repealed by a public vote.

The ordinance lost 13685 votes (62.6%) to 8184 (37.4%)

Andy_Berke_Chattanooga_NSHNewschannel9 reports:

Last year the Chattanooga City Council voted to allow the partners of city employees in domestic partnerships to get equal benefits. But the measure was forced to a public vote, and it appears the public disagrees with the 5-4 council vote. […]

Following the vote Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke [pictured] said, “I have no doubt Chattanoogans value fairness and equality, and I am proud of the volunteers who spent nights and weekends to ensure our employees are treated equally. The City of Chattanooga’s non-discrimination ordinance was repealed tonight, but I want every City employee to know one thing — your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community.  Regardless of the results tonight, my Administration will continue to hire and promote the best people who provide excellent service to our constituents."

Human Rights Campaign Deputy Field Director Jeremy Pittman released the following statement:

“Despite this hurtful and disappointing result tonight, we know that fair-minded Chattanoogans and people across Tennessee are ready to keep fighting until full equality reaches every corner of the state and every corner of this country. As LGBT equality moves forward across this country, this work isn’t over until every American can expect the same decent treatment under the law.”


  1. JackFknTwist says

    “I want every City employee to know one thing – your work is valued…..”….but not as valued as we straight normal god fearing folks.
    Your work is lesser; it is not deserving the same rights and benefits as others.

    For phuck’s sake: 2014 in America.
    What a laughing stock of ignorance.

  2. Vic says

    These comments are hilarious. It’s the South! What the hell do you people expect? Do you think if whites in the South got to vote on treating non-whites fairly and equitably in the 1960s they would have done so?

    The majority discriminates against the minority. Why is this so shocking? This is how the South operates. Hell, it’s also how many parts of the North operates, too. Hello, remember Prop 8 in California?

    Wake up. This is why we have the courts and a representative form of democracy to prevent the tyranny of majority.

  3. HadenoughBS says

    HadenoughBS > Jason MacBride • an hour ago

    I guess temporary victories such as this one let full time bigots feel better about themselves (if only temporarily). It’s only a matter of time when such temporary wins will be but homophobic dust in the winds of permanent change.

  4. Hunter says

    Why are health care benefits for individuals and their families up for vote by total strangers? I know the reason why, but it just astounds me that it occurs.

  5. David says

    Things like this are the exact reason that nothing less than full marriage equality is needed in all states. Equality should not be determined by public vote.

  6. SoCalRob says

    Didn’t anyone tell Chattanooga that the religious right are only fighting to “protect” marriage now? They are supposed to be TOTALLY fine with civil unions and domestic partnerships. I think their animus is apparent and could serve our marriage equality advocates in legal arguments.

  7. Dan says

    I’d like to clear the air on this. Chattanooga has a large gay community, and overall we as a city are very much in favor for treating everyone as equals. Comments like “It’s the South, what do you expect?” show far more prejudice than any mere vote could show. I’m a transplant from Chicago, and I chose Chattanooga as my home for a number of reasons- equality being one of them. Yet, I voted against this ordinance. Would you like to simply label me a “homophobe,” or would you like to actually know why?

    We in Chattanooga have not been very impressed with Chris Anderson. None of us cared that he was gay when we voted him INTO office, and none of us care about him being gay now. What he IS is a poor representative, and being gay shouldn’t give him a free pass. Whether we like it or not, the TN state constitution doesn’t allow for gay marriage. Okay, fine. That’s another battle for another day. Chris Anderson has consistently NOT answered any calls, NOT shown up to important meetings, and NOT taken on any of the local issues the constituents have been asking for. He’s a city councilman who is trying to change the world, but he’s doing it all wrong.

    He has been trying to get pro-gay laws passed in Chattanooga since day one of his term, yet he keeps hitting the same wall: we CAN’T do anything that would override the state constitution. That’s just plain fact. So last year, after a same-sex marriage referendum was rejected, he proposed a new ordinance. In order to allow gay couples to receive benefits, he had to go AROUND the state constitution by “opening” these benefits up to EVERY couple in the system. That not only means committed gay couples, but also every roommate, friend with benefits, and live-in boyfriend/ girlfriend. In order to envelop gay couples into the fold, he pushed through a very poorly-written, poorly-planned, poorly-thought out law with an extremely high risk of abuse at an extremely high cost to our local government/ economy. THAT ONE THING is what we voted against. This was NOT NOT NOT a vote by hateful Southerners against homosexuality. This was a very intelligent city trying to do things the RIGHT way so that our local economy doesn’t suffer.

    If the state constitution can be changed, then it can trickle through the system from the top-down, but THAT is where these changes have to be effected. This simple vote to demand more from our politicians than haphazard lawmaking has been turned into a public spectacle and twisted to make us appear like something we are totally NOT. I’d like to encourage all of you to visit Chattanooga. Check out what we have to offer, and I think you’d be pleasantly surprised. :)

  8. john patrick says

    So much for Judge Sutton’s comments in the marriage equality hearing that it would be better for gay people to wait for the people in the states to approve marriage equality, rather than to have the courts rule.

  9. Hunter says

    Thank you Dan for clearing some things up. I hope what you say is true, because if so, I think perhaps a no vote was very appropriate given the situation.

  10. Dan says

    Exactly, Little Kiwi. While most of us aren’t opposed to civil unions, it’s the GENERALIZED BENEFITS that we voted against. Historically, gay couples are every bit or more committed to each other as hetero marriages. The problem with this ordinance was in opening those benefits up to uncommitted, unmarried/unjoined couples. There is very little opposition to domestic partnerships in our city, and most of us see the social and economic benefits of ALLOWING it, but none of us want to dump millions of dollars down a hole so some city clerk’s live-in girlfriend can receive his entire pension the same way that a married/joined partner does. If the state would recognize same-sex marriage, this wouldn’t have even been a problem.

  11. Steve says

    America once again making a mockery and a mess out of direct democracy. The people are just too stupid and uneducated for it. Never mind that some thing just shouldn’t be up for a public vote in the first place.

  12. MaryM says

    63% of Chattanooga residents are pigf***ing inbreds.

    I bet they are all christian as well.

    Christianity is a spiteful, hateful cult. Which is bizarre seeing as there is no ‘god’ and anyone who believes in it is being wilfully stupid.

  13. jamal49 says

    @DAN Having followed this case closely and having a friend who lives in Chattanooga, I can safely say your are so full of it, I can smell you all the way up here in NYC.

  14. Dan says

    Oh really, Jamal49? I would LOVE to hear your take on it, or the way you understand it as your friend has fed it to you.

    Personally, I live INSIDE the Chattanooga city limits, five minutes away from downtown, AND I’ve personally spoken with City officials and County Commissioners about it. I can say with a very high level of confidence that this decision was made based on economics, not some misguided religious oppression.

    Now, of course there will be religious elements in there. I know the Tea Party jumped on the bandwagon, but hell, those crazies jump on EVERY bandwagon. The fact is, if the state would open up civil unions, every one of us would have voted YES, because every union deserves to have that benefit between partners. But Anderson simply though he could get around the State by opening it up to all partners. He even named it the “Anti-Discrimination” ordinance to drum up debate about it and make it look like we’re a bunch of “gay haters,” but how is it discrimination to not allow any regular, unmarried couple who happens to be living together to collect the full benefits of a legal marriage (at full cost to the City) without requiring that they actually GET married?

    Our gripe wasn’t about gays at all! It was about misusing the lawmaking process and pushing it through City Council without even giving the citizens a say concerning where their tax dollars are going.

  15. says

    Well, Dan, it was called an anti discrimination ordinance because it WAS an anti discrimination ordinance, and it added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city anti discrimination laws. So you got the usual nonsense about Sam coming to work dressed as Samantha so “he” could get in the women’s room. So people voted against equality on that front too.

    My employer has domestic partner benefits for same and opposite sex couples, and it is NOT a huge financial problem. Of course we later got Civil Unions and marriage, but the benefits came first. Sign up, declare your partner, and get the benefits.

    I’m intrigued why you would choose Chattanooga over Chicago for reasons “including equality.” Chicago now has marriage rights and full nondiscrimination protections. Chattanooga has neither. What kind of equality are you talking about?

  16. Dan says

    Okay KevinVT, You got me there. It did add sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination laws, but that was added to support the benefits bill. As correct as you are, that was far to the rear of everyone’s mind regarding this. I don’t know who your employer is, but I suspect it is far smaller than an entire City govt system. That increased the odds of abuse to astronomical proportions.

    I chose Chattanooga because of its SPIRIT of equality. Hell, “To each his own” should be our city motto. Sure, Chicago has the legislation, but I found a much more hateful spirit in all the years I lived there. In Chattanooga, there is a real spirit of acceptance, and legislation will naturally follow that. Just look at this state’s draconian Blue Laws. They’re practically crumbling before our eyes, and other things will happen the same way.

    My main point is that the PEOPLE of Chattanooga did not cast a vote out of bigotry, but out of understanding. If gay marriage were cast to a majority vote today, it would win overwhelmingly. We’re also smart. We’re a city, so we have a County Level and a State level above us. We could enact all kinds of laws that would just get smacked down by the State. My entire purpose of commenting on this is to remind people that we need to make these changes at the STATE level, because anything else is just a shoddy workaround that won’t function as intended. The people in this city are so much better than a single charged headline could convey, and I just hate to see us portrayed in such a way that we’re not. I want people to understand what kind of discussion is going on here, and know that we are very much in favor of equality in all things.

  17. Gary says

    In human rights law, there’s a common idea that apparent discrimination can be justified by employers if all of the alternatives would unreasonably burden the employer. Providing the same benefits to married and unmarried partners of employees isn’t an unreasonable burden. Even if it “wasn’t about gays at all”, repealing the ordinance to save money is asshattery.

  18. says

    @Dan: IF Tennessee passed civil marriage equality, indeed, Chattanooga and other places wouldn’t need marriage-lite protections on the books, but Tennessee isn’t going to do any such thing any time soon. As for the vote not being anti-gay–not buying it, sorry. Gay citizens are taxpayers, too, but they don’t have the option of not financially subsidizing straight unions.

    But since you believe in equality and cite it as a reason for moving to Chattanooga, I trust you and your like-minded friends are working for marriage equality in your state. It’s not going to happen by magic.

  19. Robert says

    Dan, your circular logic is a failure. You’re a bigot, albeit, a well spoken one, but still, a bigot. Replace Homosexual with Gay in your arguments and everyone can see what you truly are.

    Fiscal responsibility is the rallying cry of the Libertarian Bigot for why they can’t support anything in favor of equal rights. Health benefits are their favorite whipping boy, saying it will sink the economy by draining tax payer revenue, when the exact opposite has proven true. I live in Florida, I’m knee deep in this bullpucky.

  20. Randy says

    But … but… judge Sutton thinks that same-sex couples in Tennessee just want to WAIT for the dignity and respect that comes from a voter-passed recognition of same-sex marriages, not domestic partnerships.

  21. Dan says

    Robert, I’m utterly staggered and offended at your accusation. Just how deep does the cut have to be and exactly how much do I need to bleed for you to realize how UN-bigoted I am?

    We are a growing city with a strong economy BECAUSE we are responsible. We represent the largest portion of our county, and we work very closely together. As such, we secured the VW plant. We secured Amazon. We secured a second VW plant. In the last four years, we have added over 10,000 new jobs, and had over $1 billion invested. Our overall county actually has a BALANCED budget WITHOUT any tax increases!

    Everyone wants their agendas passed, but it seems like no one wants to learn how government actually works. We are very interested in equality and quality of life in Chattanooga, and work hard to do things the RIGHT way. If you do things the wrong way, you cut your own throat. We want to do it correctly, once and for all, and ensure that it doesn’t bleed us dry or tear us apart in the process. I keep repeating “we need to do it at the state level” because anything else will be overturned or a flat-out failure. I’m aware of the situation and the amount of corruption that Florida is dealing with, and I’m sorry that you guys are stuck with that for the moment. But we here in Chattanooga realize that we can’t simply enact laws that supersede the State constitution.

    We’d MUCH rather single out the gay couples and individually award them benefits, but are constitutionally not allowed to. So, until those laws are changed, we put our efforts into making sure that we don’t lose the spirit of equality that I spoke of earlier, and we make sure that our city will be a place where people can come and feel like they can have a decent life here. Part of that is making sure that we remain fiscally responsible. I personally can’t trust anyone who claims that fiscal responsibility is a sham until I see them literally give away every thing they own and become some kind of bondslave just to keep giving it all away. In this city, we LOVE our people way too much to let it all die while we sit on the Internet and scream about how unjust it is. We’re moving forward, every single day, in the right direction, and THAT is why we are as strong of a community as we are. You really should move up here and be a part of this, Robert. I’m honestly inviting you.

  22. TonyJazz says

    Sorry, Dan, but the spirit of equality is not to be found in Chattanooga. I appreciate that you’ve got a circle of friends who tolerate gay people.

    However, it is not bigoted to call out the South on gay rights. It is patently clear that the southeast is a more backward society culturally, and it will probably stay that way for a while.

    Nowhere else in the country do I see a presence of racism on so many trucks (the confederate flag). And the subtle racism there is just as bad. (Yes, there is some racism everywhere…)

    Sorry, but that area (I’ve been there enough) is hardly a bastion of anyone’s equality… and that is unfortunate.

  23. TonyJazz says

    And, Dan, while you continue to strain reasonable arguments to try to make your point, it is quite doubtful that people voted in large numbers against the ordinance BECAUSE of the hateful law in your state’s constitution.

    Sorry, though you seem misguided, I do hope that you succeed in educating others (in areas besides budgeting) and help create a more enlightened social structure there.

    God, the South is so bad that not ONE state allows the gay community equal rights to a job….

    And it is too bad that corporations continue to build factories in parts of the country without pushing for fairness in our laws. I would hope that some of them have a moral heart, as well, though that is a lot to expect of billionaires and their like…

  24. Dan says

    Well TonyJazz, I don’t know what to say. I hardly think that gays are an outside group that should be “tolerated.” I don’t know how long it has been since you’ve been to “the South,” or specifically Chattanooga, but I propose that we’re worth another look. There’s a whole lot more going on than a “if it bleeds, it leads” media would like to portray. That’s all my initial comments were about. We’re all among friends here, and I think you’d be proud.

  25. TonyJazz says

    Thanks (seriously) for the ‘nice guy’ response, Dan.

    I was last there in May, as my parents live in northern Georgia. However, I grew up in Kentucky, and I don’t think that state is doing any better…

    You are perfectly right: if more people had your attitude about where you live, it does make a community better.

  26. JJ says

    @DAN, 80% of the voters in Hamilton County, where Chattanooga resides, voted for the marriage ban in Tennessee

    You can’t spin that as fiscal responsibility or the prospect of being overturned or a spirit of equality. The repeal of this ordinance is exactly what it appears to be, and the climate in Chattanooga is very different than the picture you’re trying to paint. That combined with the fact that you voted against a measure that would have added sexual orientation to non-discrimination laws—a fact that you omitted until someone else pointed it out—and that you moved from Chicago to Chattanooga for its spirit of “equality” suggests that you’ve got some issues with your perception of reality to work out before you can hope to understand, let alone explain to others, why your neighbors voted a certain way.

  27. Dan says

    Thanks JJ. That number is actually really skewed from reality. The local Tea Party DID have a big hand in that, but keep in mind that in the elections yesterday, voter turnout was barely 26%. There is no spin to be had on the PDF you linked. 80% of the people who went out to vote DID vote on a marriage ban, HOWEVER, that is SUCH a far cry from the mass of people I meet on the street every day. That’s why I try to encourage more people to actually go out an vote- so that those numbers reflect reality, not just a single aggravated vote.

  28. Dan says

    Y’know, too many here (and on other boards) just seem to have their minds made up already. I really don’t hang out on the Internet to argue. Instead, I try to be part of a real-life solution, and all I can tell you is that I’m not alone in this.

    You guys just keep your minds open. I do, and I’m surprised by people every day. Just know that not everyone is as bad as you fear. :)

  29. Jerry 6 says

    In the 1960’s The New York company I worked for was bought by a Chattanooga company and I worked in that “Fair” City for exactly one year. The President of the company was was from a long term Family that went back to before the Civil War. One day, we had an out of town visitor, and when we were going down in the elevator to go to lunch, the visitor asked “How many Blacks live in Chattanooga?” The President of the Company replied “None; Blacks are not “People”, so we do not count them”.

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