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After years of discussion, Tucker City Council will consider nondiscrimination ordinance

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After years of discussion, Tucker City Council will consider nondiscrimination ordinance

Tucker City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — The Tucker City Council meets May 8 and will hold a first read and public hearing about the nondiscrimination ordinance that’s been discussed for years.

Supporters and opponents plan to attend the meeting and speak during public comments. The city council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and be held at Tucker City Hall, located at 1975 Lakeside Pkwy, Ste 350B, Tucker, GA 30084. The meeting will also be streamed via Zoom. To see the Zoom link, click here.

Getting an NDO passed has been a years-long effort that has met with resistance, notably from Mayor Auman.

“I have serious reservations about trying to use the force of law to bring about the change we’d like to see on this matter,” Auman said back in 2021. “My concerns include the fact that such a law is outside our purview, it creates division instead of unity, and it will lead to all sorts of needless, expensive legal action by and among our citizens.”

Councilmember Anne Lerner announced an NDO working group back in April 2022. That came six months after Mayor Auman and city council members supported a resolution for an “inclusive, fair and welcoming city.” Supporters of the ordinance said that the resolution was not legally enforceable.

Tucker Open Door, a local civic group, has been placing pressure on the city to adopt the ordinance, which is similar to ordinances adopted in other cities like Doraville, Decatur, Clarkston, Chamblee, Dunwoody, and Brookhaven.

In a message to its members before Monday’s meeting, Tucker Open Door said, “After working for 3+ years with Tucker Open Door on a non-discrimination ordinance, it will finally be on the agenda for a first read on May 8th! We welcome your presence and support during the City Council meeting. Public comments and emails in support of the ordinance will be critical as we work to get this passed…. Let’s get it done.”

Rehoboth Baptist Church emailed church members on May 5, encouraging them to attend the meeting to speak against the ordinance out of concern it would infringe on people’s religious freedom.

“I am bringing this matter to your attention because the proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance will violate the First Amendment rights of all people of faith and all faith entities,” Pastor Troy Bush wrote in the email. “I have met repeatedly with members of our city council who have been drafting this ordinance, and I have shared these concerns.”

The ordinance itself creates legal definitions in the city code for age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and veteran. It declares that people have a right to be free from discrimination regarding seeking or keeping employment, enjoying public accommodations, obtaining housing, and being free from retaliation for exercising those rights.

The ordinance does carve out 10 exceptions, some of which cover religious organizations. It also provides a process for enforcing the ordinance.

Under the NDO, the city can enforce the ordinance, but it’s a lengthy process.

People who want to file a complaint about ordinance violations can file them with the city clerk using a form provided by the city. Complainants will be required to pay a $50 filing fee. The city clerk would notify the chief judge of the city’s municipal court, who would appoint a hearing officer from a list of hearing officers appointed by the city in the same way that the city appoints members of its boards.

The hearing officer can dismiss a complaint if the complainant has filed a separate complaint with a state or federal agency alleging the same facts. If the complaint makes a claim that violates state or federal law, the hearing officer will refer the complaint to those agencies and dismiss the complaint. The city clerk will have to serve the target of the complaint within seven days of the complaint being filed. The respondent will have 30 days to answer the complaint but will not be obligated to respond. If the complaint is allowed to proceed, the city will also offer up to six hours of free mediation services to resolve a complaint before holding a hearing. If the complaint results in a hearing, and the accused is found to have violated the city’s ordinance, there will be a fine of $500 for the first violation and a fine of up to $1,000 for each subsequent violation.

“No such finding or penalty shall in any way be considered to be a criminal conviction,” the ordinance says.

The hearing officer may also request corrective action in addition to or in lieu of a fine.

Parties found to have violated the ordinance may appeal within 30 days to the Superior Court of DeKalb County.

To read the draft of the non-discrimination ordinance, click here.

Writer Logan C. Ritchie contributed reporting to this story. 

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