CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV)- Although the Chattanooga city council Tuesday night agreed to offer employee benefits to same-sex couples, a citizens group is already mounting a campaign to let voters decide.
Council passed the resolution on first reading by 5-4 vote, with the second and final reading is set for next Tuesday.
That may lead to a referendum.
YUSEF HAKEEM, COUNCIL CHAIRMAN "But are we treating as full citizens,are we providing them human rights?"
The council vote made Chattanooga the third city in Tennessee to expand benefits to domestic partners, and it was met with smiles by many.
LT. CORLISS COOPER ,CHATTANOOGA POLICE DEPARTMENT "Hello mama, I just wanted to call and let you know it passed on first reading".
Others were disappointed.
Councilman Larry Grohn, who was one of the 4 who opposed the ordinance.
LARRY GROHN, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER "I know I'm on the losing side of this..but it seems to me that its unusual that we can constantly cut and cut and cut...and extend benefits before we take care of the employees that we already have." "
But the issue may not be resolved, yet.
MARK WEST, PRES., CITIZENS FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY "After the 2nd vote,which will be this next Tuesday, there's an opportunity for the people to sign a petition ..and collect sufficient signatures to put this ordinance on the ballot next year."
West says his group already has a steering committee to direct efforts to gather 4500 legal signatures in 2 weeks to put the issue before the voters.
MARK WEST "We can then put this ordinance on hold, and let the people decide, which is what we've said from day-one, and actually,and which, I think is what a number of councilmen have said as well."
According to the ordinance, gay marriage would not be a factor, and would still not be recognized.
It would affect "domestic partners"---meaning, those living together in a committed relationship.
MARK WEST "For some it's a moral issue, for some its a fiscal issue, for some its an equality issue..but for all its a very contentious issue."
The election commission is expected to schedule a special meeting on Wednesday the 20th, to approve the petition for the referendum.