Leaders react to domestic partnership ordinance defeat - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Leaders react to domestic partnership ordinance defeat

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Among the big issues tackled this election was the Chattanooga ordinance that would've extended benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

City council approved it last fall, but enough petitioners fought that decision to put the issue before the voters. Thursday voters struck it down.  

It's an issue that's sparked heated debate and grabbed national attention over the last several months. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force voiced its disappointment in the outcome Friday along with several other activist groups. But opponents say they're proud the majority of voters had the final say, striking it down.

"This country was founded on Christian principles and values and I think that's alive and well in Chattanooga and I think the people have said so," Chattanooga District 1 City Councilman Chip Henderson said.

Chip Henderson was among the four Chattanooga city councilmen who voted against the ordinance last fall that would extend benefits to the domestic partners of city workers, meaning an unmarried couple of the same or opposite sex that lives together. Five council members voted for it, so it passed.

"I was really disappointed because I didn't feel it was the will of the people of Chattanooga," Henderson said.

Petitioners started gathering signatures and got enough to force a citizen vote. Thursday, 62.6% voted no.

"It's a sad day for our city. It's a sad day for the city employees," CPD Capt. Corliss Cooper said.

Openly gay CPD Captain Corliss Cooper says she's not shocked at the outcome, but is disappointed. Collegedale was the first Tennessee city to offer domestic partner benefits last year, followed by Knoxville.

"Collegedale. Southern Day Adventist country. Who would've thought that and here we are supposed to be a progressive city," Capt. Cooper said.

But she says this election result doesn't end the fight for equality.

"Just a small little blip but they can't derail the train that's already riding the tracks and it's not going to slow down," Capt. Cooper said.

"I would hope and trust there wouldn't be any effort brought forth to circumvent the will of the people," Henderson said.

Hamilton County Election Commissioners say this was the first citizen-initiated referendum in at least the last 30 years, possibly ever.
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