The city of Collegedale has approved extending benefits to the partners of gay city workers, making it the first city in Tennessee to adopt such a policy.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the policy was adopted during a city commission meeting held Monday. Mayor John Turner cast the lone dissenting vote. He said that his vote represented the 74 people who had lobbied him to vote against the change.

“That's what we're supposed to do as elected officials, represent the people of our district,” Turner said.

Collegedale Detective Kat Cooper, who married her wife Krista in Maryland this spring, spearheaded the effort to change the policy after she was denied health coverage for her wife.

“It is such a huge weight off our shoulders,” Cooper said. “We don't have to constantly worry about health expenses or sudden emergencies. It's hard to explain how much this means to us.”

Opponents criticized the move, saying that it “condones” marriage for gay couples.

“It looks like we are condoning same-sex marriage,” resident Dolly Fillman said. “I know they said that wasn't what they were doing, but it looks like it to me.”

Resident Jeff Walton added: “Changing the policy will legitimize same-sex unions by giving those relationships the same status as traditionally defined husband-and-wife marriages. That's a decision with far-reaching consequences for our city and society.”

According to The Chattanoogan, a majority of people speaking at Monday's meeting opposed the resolution.

It was unclear how the city would define such spouses given that gay couples cannot marry in Tennessee.

Tennessee voters in 2006 overwhelmingly (81%) approved a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual unions and strengthening previously existing laws to the same effect.