UPDATE: LGBT workers in the city of Chattanooga are now protected under city law. Council members voted 4-to- 2 to pass the non-discrimination ordinance proposed by Chris Anderson. This means city employers are now prohibited from firing someone simply on the basis of sexual orientation or gender Identity. It also calls for discipline for any co-worker or supervisor who violates it. The ordinance passed its first reading last week only after Councilman Chip Henderson added an amendment that would protect religious beliefs and expression as well.
Chattanooga city council members are taking up what's become a controversial topic. They're considering whether gay and transgender employees should have legal protection from discrimination at work.
City councilman Chris Anderson proposed new legislation to protect the LGBT community a few weeks ago after the Supreme Court's decision of same sex marriage. While some say it's time, others worry it could open the city to expensive lawsuits. The proposed non-discrimination ordinance passed its first reading Tuesday night only after an amendment that protects religious beliefs being expressed as well, was added.
Tennessee law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity - but those two terms are listed in proposed non-discrimination policy.
"If it is passed, all employees will be protected from discrimination, harassment, termination or other retaliation because of who they are," said Councilman Chris Anderson.
Chris Anderson's original ordinance to amend the city's non-discrimination policy had included the terms sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. After much debate, the term expression was removed from the copy. In addition, definitions of each class were added.
"Some of the council thought the word expression was too broad. I agreed we needed to tighten up the definitions so we can be very clear on the definition of what gender identity is," said Anderson.
Councilman Chip Henderson Spoke with Channel 3 before the first-reading, He said the ordinance as written could violate all city workers' right to privacy in restrooms.
"We are going to have to face the fact that this ordinance as written would allow a natural born man into a females' restroom. I think that we should address in a policy the privacy concern and what we are going to do to protect the privacy of our employees, " said Henderson.
Henderson tells Channel 3, many employees are worried the ordinance could affect Christians' freedom of speech and that's why he proposed an amendment to protect religious expression.
"I have evidence of the Fire Chief in Atlanta Georgia being fired because he expressed his religious beliefs about homosexuality being a sin," said Henderson.
"Chattanooga is the only major city in Tennessee that doesn't currently protect sexual orientation and gender identity," said Anderson.
Chip Henderson introduced the amendment that would recognize the Constitutional right and freedom to express your religious beliefs without fear of prosecution or persecution, it was added. Chairman Moses Freeman expressed his concerns about the added amendment possibly giving other religions groups/ people "the right to harass". The first reading on the ordinance passed with 8 councilmen voting in favor. Councilman Moses Freeman said, "no" to Henderson's added amendment and, "yes to the original ordinance.
Friday, January 19 2018 10:49 AM EST2018-01-19 15:49:19 GMT
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