Chattanooga police officer sues election panel over domestic partnership plan

A Chattanooga police lieutenant has filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Election Commission after it approved a wording change on a referendum that asks voters if they will allow city employees with domestic partners to have the same benefits as married couples.

Lt. Corliss Cooper, a 27-year police department veteran, filed the suit Monday along with her partner, Robin Smith, in Hamilton County Circuit Court.

photo Corliss Cooper

According to state law, the petitioners in a recall get to decide on the language used on the ballot.

And on Friday, the election commission approved the original language.

Cooper's attorney, Stevie Phillips, alleges that the change from a 170-word summary to a 15-word summary in an "emergency meeting" held without public notification serves to not fully explain the law to voters.

"The voters of the City of Chattanooga need to understand what this Ordinance means when they vote on it. The Hamilton County Election Commission, a body that should be fair and neutral, is allowing outside political forces to influence their decision making," Phillips wrote in a news release.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the commission from using the ballot question "Shall the City of Chattanooga's domestic partnership ordinance (Ordinance 12781) be adopted?" until further summary information is included.