Voters in Chattanooga, Tennessee overwhelmingly decided Thursday to undo a recently passed law that extended health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. With a vote of 13,685–8,184, the town overturned the law originally passed 5–4 by the City Council.
The Human Rights Campaign decried the vote as “hurtful and disappointing,” but Mayor Andy Berk was still hopeful. He told WTVC, “I have no doubt Chattanoogans value fairness and equality, and I am proud of the volunteers who spent nights and weekends to ensure our employees are treated equally.” He assured city employees, “Your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community.”
Signatures to overturn the law had been collected by a local Tea Party group and a political action committee called Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency (CGAT). According to CGAT, the law unfairly extended benefits to “unmarried girl friends” and “unmarried boy friends” and would hurt the city’s budget. “It sets a financial precedent that will be difficult for the city of Chattanooga taxpayers to sustain longterm,” they claimed. “As healthcare cost increase, the creation of a new benefit class will jeopardize the longterm future of married spouse benefits for all city employees.”
Despite this setback in Chattanooga, Tennessee’s elections did include some good news. State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) lost his primary election to challenger Richard Briggs. Campfield had fiercely advocated for what infamously became known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have prevented teachers from discussing homosexuality — thereby enabling anti-LGBT bullying and harassment — and forced school officials to out students to their parents. Campfield had compared homosexuality to injecting heroin and believed that AIDS originated in the gay community after somebody had sex with a monkey.