Collegedale votes to provide benefits for same-sex couples - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Collegedale votes to provide benefits for same-sex couples

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Kat Cooper, right, and her wife, Krista, from their Maryland wedding trip earlier this year. Kat Cooper, right, and her wife, Krista, from their Maryland wedding trip earlier this year.

There was a historic vote Monday night in Collegedale. The city will now allow city employees in a same-sex marriage to receive family benefits.

The decision makes Collegedale the first town in the state to adopt such a measure, and many say it will set a precedent for others.

"We're cutting new territory here," said Mayor John Turner, who was the only one to vote against the measure.

"We don't know what we're facing for sure, we don't know all aspects of it."

Resolution 447 passed four to one.

READ MORE | Employee benefits for Collegedale same sex couple

The decision comes after the Collegedale City Council voted in June to draft the resolution.

Collegedale Police Officer Kat Cooper petitioned to have benefits for her and her partner. The two are legally married in the state of Maryland.

Monday Cooper shared her story with the council and those in attendance.

"I hope you find compassion, tolerance and fairness in your hearts and in your decision-making process as you vote on this issue," she addressed council members.

Collegedale residents followed Cooper to give their thoughts.

Cheers erupted when the resolution passed, but some residents felt they should have had a vote.

"All these people that are walking out of here think the same thing," said Dolly Darbo. "I don't know, we did something wrong when we put our city together."

"We would become the gay capitol of Tennessee. Many gay people would move here and see this as an open door," said Beatrice Neal.

The spotlight was no doubt on Monday's vote.

Members of the LGBT community and supporters were there to watch.

"We just wanted to see the outcome and be here for the first place in Tennessee that was going to get this," said Megan Smith, with Tennessee Marriage Equality. "I'm real excited, small ripples, huge waves, that's really true."

Officials voting in favor of the resolution say Collegedale is not trying to define marriage.

Sam Elliot, Collegedale City Attorney, says the resolution respects Tennessee law.

"We cannot recognize that a legal marriage, relationship exists," he told Channel 3. "What you can do is use that as a departure point to recognize that a family relationship exist."

The new policy will take effect immediately.

Starting Tuesday, Kat Cooper can apply for benefits for her family.

Employees must have a marriage certificate from a state that recognizes same-sex marriage to receive the benefits.

Mayor Turner says there are a lot of questions that need to be worked out. He also says it's possible the city will take another look at the resolution for future changes.

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