Nondiscrimination ordinance with amendment passes first City Council vote

Opponents argue bill a moot point with upcoming new employee handbook

Chattanooga City Hall

Where a person's rights stop and another's freedoms begin was debated Tuesday at Chattanooga City Council before members unanimously voted to approve an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian and transgender city employees from harassment.

The ordinance, which has been hotly debated on both sides and has even created rifts between top Democratic leaders, passed with a new amendment that also protects employees' rights to their religious beliefs.

Councilman Chip Henderson said he introduced the amendment in response to Atlanta's firing of a fire chief earlier this year regarding a book he wrote, explaining that sex was between a man and a woman and anything else was a sin.

"This is the type of thing I'm trying to protect," Henderson told the council. "Any employee has the right to express their religious belief but at the same time, it's not to be used as a club to beat over somebody's head.