published Monday, July 7th, 2014

Judge rules short same-sex ballot question stands

Poll
Do you agree with the judge's decision?

ON THE BALLOT

Below is the ballot question concerning Chattanooga's same-sex employee benefit policy.

"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.

This morning a circuit court judge ruled the ballot language written on the petition for the domestic partner referendum stands.

Chattanooga objected to the language citing the city should write the question that voters see on the ballot but Judge Neil Thomas ruled in favor of the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Thomas heard an hour and a half of arguments Thursday afternoon from four parties -- Chattanooga police Lt. Corliss Cooper and the city vs. the Hamilton County Election Commission and the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency.

The argument is over who gets to write a question on the Aug. 7 ballot asking Chattanooga voters whether the city should provide benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

Cooper and the city argued that the City Charter allows the city attorney to write a summary of the ordinance on the ballot so voters know more about what they're voting on.

The version written by city attorneys was as follows:

Shall Ordinance No. 12781 go into effect or become operative to amend the City Code of the City of Chattanooga so as to (1) ensure that City employees are also afforded equal protection against harassment and discrimination because of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; and to (2) provide certain medical and leave benefits to a qualified domestic partner of City employees?

A qualified domestic partner is a person who states under oath they have resided with the City employee for at least 365 days; the City employee and domestic partner are in a non-platonic and committed relationship of mutual caring; neither the City employee nor the domestic partner has a spouse as recognized under Tennessee law; the City employee and domestic partner have joint financial and credit responsibilities; and the City employee and domestic partner are not related to a degree of kinship that would otherwise prevent marriage under Tennessee law.

The version that will appear on the ballot is in a box on the right.

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