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.