Decatur becomes fifth city in DeKalb County to adopt nondiscrimination ordinance
This story has been updated.
Decatur’s City Commission on Nov. 18 unanimously adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance.
“Decatur is committed to the values of equity, inclusion and diversity and the adoption of this ordinance is a tangible way to demonstrate that commitment,” Mayor Patti Garrett said in a press release following the vote.
A spokesperson for the city says, “Decatur is now the 5th city in DeKalb County and the 6th city in Georgia to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance including Doraville, Clarkston, Chamblee, Dunwoody, and the City of Atlanta.”
The ordinance outlaws discrimination by local businesses on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, age or military status. It prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
There’s no federal law and no state law protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Decatur’s ordinance is intended to address areas not currently covered by state and federal laws.
“The ordinance’s enforcement includes clear steps starting with filing a complaint through resolution in the city’s municipal court or the option of voluntary mediation,” a press release from the city says. “The initial penalty for violation is a civil penalty of $500, and $1,000 for any subsequent violations.”
People who feel they’ve experienced discrimination would file a complaint to the Decatur City Manager. The city would issue a court summons while also offering the parties a chance to mediate their dispute. If there’s no way to mediate it, there would be a preliminary hearing, a trial and a ruling by a judge on whether there’s been a violation. If the accused party is found guilty, they would face a $500 fine on a first offense and a $1,000 fine for any subsequent offense.
One important aspect of the ordinance is that it would not supersede state or federal law.
“If there’s a state and federal law that already exist that would address this type of discrimination, it means our law is preempted and would not be able to be heard in our jurisdiction,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said during the Nov. 4 work session.
There would also be exemptions carved out for religious organizations.
For more information about those exemptions, click here.
There will be a communication and education effort now that the law is passed. Garrett said the city will work with its Better Together Advisory Board to educate the community about the new law.
To see a draft copy of the nondiscrimination ordinance, click here. A signed copy of the ordinance will be on the city’s website by the end of the week.
Clare Schexnyder, a Decatur mom and activist, praised the City Commission for adopting the ordinance.
“Thank you for making this important step today in reclaiming Decatur as a place where inclusivity, equity and diversity are our guiding principles,” Schexnyder said. “I’m proud to call Decatur home.”
Editor’s note: Some of this story was reported by viewing a live video stream of the City Commission’s Nov. 18 meeting.