Late changes made to City of Chattanooga nondiscrimination ordinance

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
photo Chris Anderson

Late changes to a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance that seeks to protect gay, lesbian and transgender Chattanooga employees have picked up new support.

City Councilman Larry Grohn said Friday he would vote for the ordinance after the term "gender expression" was removed.

Councilman Chris Anderson, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Moses Freeman, removed the term late Friday, and added definitions for "gender identity" and several other key terms in the local law.

Councilmen Chip Henderson and Grohn expressed concern about the term "gender expression," because they said it might allow transgender city employees to use restrooms opposite to their biological sex.

"There were some legitimate concerns raised about the definition of expression. And I added the definition of gender identity to encompass the spirit of the law without using a broad word like expression," Anderson said Friday.

Under the new draft, gender identity "means the actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's sex at birth."

Grohn said he would vote for the revised ordinance and he was "pleased that there was some compromise made on it."

"My main concern was that we were granting the freedom of expression for one group, yet in other parts of the code we limited expression for other groups," he said. "With the changes being made, I'm happy with the ordinance and I'll vote for it."

There was no meeting required for the change, because Anderson is one of its writers, according to City Attorney Wade Hinton.

The rest of the council will discuss and hold a first vote on the ordinance on Tuesday.

Anderson said he hopes Henderson also will consider the change an olive branch.

"I hope that since I acted in good faith with Councilman Henderson's wishes, he would join us in voting for it," Anderson said.

Henderson did not return a phone call late Friday.

Despite his support, Grohn continued to question if the whole debate has been necessary. The council now is drafting a new employee handbook that will include all current employee ordinances and delete them from city code.

"I think that we'll probably have this ordinance in place in a couple of weeks, and it will be immediately wiped out by the new handbook," Grohn said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@times freepress.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.