published Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Cook: Omission distorts meaning

Here's the version of the question that the city wants to appear on the Aug. 7 ballot.

(Note to readers: it was written by an attorney, so reading it is not going to be a real Busta Rhymes-type experience. But the following 154 words are very crucial, so please, don't skim. Anyway, if one group has its way, you'll never see these words again.)


Shall Ordinance No. 12781 go into effect or become operative to amend the City Code of the City of Chattanooga so as to (1) ensure that City employees are also afforded equal protection against harassment and discrimination because of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; and to (2) provide certain medical and leave benefits to a qualified domestic partner of City employees?

A qualified domestic partner is a person who states under oath they have resided with the City employee for at least 365 days; the City employee and domestic partner are in a non-platonic and committed relationship of mutual caring; neither the City employee nor the domestic partner has a spouse as recognized under Tennessee law; the City employee and domestic partner have joint financial and credit responsibilities; and the City employee and domestic partner are not related to a degree of kinship that would otherwise prevent marriage under Tennessee law.

And that's all.

The question asks voters two things: Do you want to make sure city workers can't be discriminated against because of their ethnicity, sexuality or gender identity and expression?

And do you want to give certain benefits to the domestic partner of a city worker?

Now, here's the version put forth by the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency, or CGAT, a local group against domestic partner benefits that led a successful petition drive to put the question on the ballot.

For some reason, CGAT didn't like the city's wording of the question.

So they convinced the Hamilton County Election Commission to instead use for its ballot the language from the petition drive: Shall the city of Chattanooga's 'domestic partnership' ordinance be adopted?

And that's all, folks. From 154 words to 10. They put a shiv in it.

Their 1o-word question is followed by a statement that explains -- sort of -- what a For or Against vote means.

For the Ordinance providing for the extension of benefits in domestic partnerships and adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city's nondiscrimination policy.

(The "Against" explanation reads the same, only replacing "For" with "Against".)

One city police officer and her partner sue, saying the language is unfair.

The city agrees, and sues too.

A judge is reviewing state law and the city charter to see who should have the authority to write the final question. Monday morning, there's another meeting at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Ballots are supposed to be printed at noon Monday.

So which question would you want to read in your ballot? Which question is fair?

Which question ... doesn't discriminate?

The City's Question is comprehensive, explaining who can and can't be considered a domestic partner while also defining who would now have equal protection against discrimination.

The CGAT Question is an act of reductionism and omission that shrinks the whole meaning into 10 words, plus a movie credit explanation.

The City's Question treats the issue seriously.

The CGAT Question subliminally mocks the question by putting the issue in quotes -- Shall ... Chattanooga's 'domestic partnership' ordinance be adopted? -- like it's not a real thing, like they're using air quotes. It omits the word "benefits," sneakily suggesting that by voting for this ordinance, you're voting to approve gay marriage in the city.

The City's Question treats you, the voter, seriously.

The CGAT Question is a spoon-fed insult, and leaves me with one question of my own:

What is CGAT so afraid of?

The city's version is factual, not persuasive. Chattanoogans can read it, think for themselves, and vote yes or no. To steer voters away from it toward such a drastically different question suggests that CGAT has a real fear of something within the city's language.

And to reduce it to a 10-word hobbit of a question does a disservice to the issue, and the people on both sides of it.

Then again, discrimination always tries to make people feel smaller than they actually are.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
aae1049 said...

Perhaps you have a point. commissioned a professional Dem poller, and it appears that no matter how the referendum is worded the City's ordinance will be repealed by a 68 percent margin. This seems to match voter consensus of the state of Tennessee who in the 2009 or so, the entire state of Tennessee voted 90 percent to prohibit same sex marriage. Again, whatever your opinion, the voters will have the final word.

Simply put, Mr. Cook, you may not like the answer, but at the end of the day, the voters do not share the Times Free Press opinion. 10,000 people signed the petition, because of either their faith, fiscal concerns about the city cutting retiree health insurance.

July 6, 2014 at 12:42 a.m.
aae1049 said...

It is your vote, not the TFP's Lobby called editorial page.

July 6, 2014 at 1:47 a.m.
conservative said...

I didn't bother to read the piece because I know Mr. Cook wants the taxpayer to pay for the medical cost of Homosexuals/sodomites and adulterers and fornicators.

I am confident that Mr. Cook "omitted" to tell you that.

July 6, 2014 at 8:10 a.m.
LibDem said...

Somehow conservative makes things sound like a lot more fun.

July 6, 2014 at 9:44 a.m.


I believe it is about diseased individuals. The overwhelming preponderance of percentage of HIV/AIDS infected people...per capita are homosexual individuals! We don't know with whom we may be associating. Our City Government Must Pay For Their Treatment Using Innocent Taxpayer's Dollars

The HIV/AIDS infected homosexual usually carries an extremely high number of of Opportunistic Contagious Infections. This ranging from Gut Parasites-to-Gonorrhea. The Center for Disease Control states that in some states that Gonorrhea number is 50 percent of homosexual men. This Gonorrhea is loathsome in that it 'laughs' at the antibiotics they try for treatment. It has been labeled a 'Super Bug' and 'Nastier than AIDS'. Treatment for HIV/AIDS = $400 to $600 thousand dollars per patient per lifetime. We Pay City!!!

Why homosexual Gut Parasites? Just think about the kind of sex most homosexuals prefer.......What kind of men with men sexual intercourse? I am in no way saying that anyone, politician, or otherwise who is homosexual is going into someones gut/bowel/fecal elimination function intestines. I am not the Judge! Yet, should we break the city government by paying for their infected partners?

I advise to stay out of the homosexual lifestyle choice altogether! YOU CANNOT PLAY CHESS WITH JESUS CHRIST AND WIN! The number of mutating strains of HIV is on the increase.

Malleus Deus

July 6, 2014 at 7:44 p.m.
conservative said...

Sic em Ken!

July 7, 2014 at 7:45 a.m.


Whhhyyy, 'Thank You' conservative. +(:>


July 7, 2014 at 8:14 a.m.

I believe it is about diseased individuals. The overwhelming preponderance of percentage of HIV/AIDS infected people...per capita are homosexual individuals! Our City Government Must Pay For Their Treatment Using Innocent Taxpayer's Dollars

July 7, 2014 at 8:17 a.m.
conservative said...

"Judge rules short same-sex ballot question stands"

July 7, 2014 at 8:59 a.m.
timbo said...

This is moot now....but the way Cook and the rest of the big spenders want it was ludicrous. It was selling their view point and was written as such.

Cook is awful..awful..anyone that would hire him to write is certifiably stupid.

July 7, 2014 at 10:44 a.m.
aae1049 said...

The TFP editorial page is nothing but a left agenda lobby.

July 7, 2014 at 11:02 a.m.
timbo said...

aae1049...I found that contacting the conservative owner by e-mail really seems to help. Try it..

July 7, 2014 at 11:44 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Will do

July 7, 2014 at 12:20 p.m.
una61 said...

What are "the certain benefits"?

July 7, 2014 at 1:01 p.m.
conservative said...

So far 230 Homosexuals/sodomite, adulterers and fornicators have disagreed with the judges ruling.

A short while ago the number was 181.

I knew that there were more than 181 Homosexuals/sodomite, adulterers and fornicators working for the city.

July 7, 2014 at 1:22 p.m.
timbo said...

Who cares about a poll on a liberal rag like the TFP. It is not scientific and means nothing.

July 7, 2014 at 2:16 p.m.
conservative said...

Yea, but it sure is fun using their own poll against their cause.

July 7, 2014 at 3:40 p.m.


"Once you have been infected with HIV, you will always carry it in your body."

"There is no cure for HIV."


Citizens! Please! Where are your brains??? Do you want your family tax dollars paying from $400,0000.00 to $600,000.000 per infected homosexual who chose a lifestyle Jesus Christ labels an abomination?

Malleus Deum

July 7, 2014 at 10:02 p.m.
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