LGBTQ+ Chattanooga has a message for the Gig City: Time to get up to speed about legal discriminatory practices.
Local organizers have recently released their first social media video to kick off a push for a citywide Equality Ordinance. The proposed ordinance will affirm the existing federal court rulings protecting LGBTQ people throughout the city, and allow LGBTQ people to use existing systems for reporting discrimination and seek Justice, according to the proposal website.
“Despite the marriage equality ruling, our LGBTQ neighbors can legally be discriminated against in most areas of daily life,” according to the City of Equality website. The proponents of the ordinance say that LGBTQ Chattanoogans may legally be discriminated in areas of housing, services, employment, education and even medical care under current laws.
Organizer Samantha Boucher told Out & About Nashville that the proposal has been in the works for almost two years now, in an exclusive interview by social media.
“We hosted our first Chattanooga Queer Community Forum in late 2016,” Boucher said.
“One of our community leaders pointed out, while there are protections for most Chattanooga citizens, there are none for us. It was decided right then and there that we would work towards achieving true equality for our community…and we kicked it off in 2017's Pride month with an equality rally and march.”
Ms. Boucher says that the reaction from city officials has been very positive.
“Our city leaders have been very receptive to having these conversations and developing the legislation with us,” Boucher said. “Our business, non-profit and faith leaders have also stepped up to throw their support behind the initiative too.”
Fellow organizer Ginger Moss pointed out that an open lesbian woman was recently fired from a Hamilton County government position. It has been alleged that her supervisor, a locally elected Republican official, did so because he was afraid of the reaction amongst his supporters if her services were retained.
(The City of Chattanooga government is separate from the Hamilton County governmental structure as like most American municipalities. LGBTQ employees of Hamilton County are not covered under current anti-discrimination legislation that protects Chattanooga city employees.)
“A lot of people don't realize that the LGBTQ community, despite the marriage equality ruling, doesn't have enforced protections against discrimination,” Boucher explained. “We can evicted from housing, fired, or refused services, or even medical care legally.” Both organizers related how a local trans woman was recently refused housing and struggled after moving to the city, and Boucher herself has experienced discrimination in local medical care.
Ms. Boucher says that while Chattanooga is generally a safe place for LGBTQ people to work and live, open discrimination does happen and necessitates the ordinance.
“Our community is vibrant and visible, and our city leaders are supportive of our community. But there is still a lot of discrimination out there, and we want to give our people tools to fight that discrimination when it happens.”
Ms. Moss agrees for the most part, pointing out she has lived in the Chattanooga area for over fifteen years without incident, but she reminds us that this is often not the case for her transgender friends.
“As long as you stay in the city and don't venture too far out, Chattanooga is generally considered safe,” Moss said. “The county is not viewed the same way.”
Ms. Boucher believes that the odds of the ordinance proposal passing are very favorable.
“We have a friendly city government, a generally supportive business and faith community, and there are multiple federal court decisions that agree with our proposal,” Boucher explained.
So what can we do to help the push for full equality in Gig City? Visit the website and help spread the message with our friends, Boucher says.
Visit www.cityofequality.org for more information about how to help fellow Tennesseans fight legal discriminatory practices against LGBTQ+ people.