CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) -- Less than 24 hours after approval from the Chattanooga city council, a controversial ordinance on domestic partners gets challenged by a group of citizens.
The Hamilton county election commission Wednesday gave the go ahead for a petition campaign to put the issue in front of local voters.
The Chattanooga city council passed on second reading an ordinance extending benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. The vote was 5 to 3.
As promised, leaders of the Citizens for Government Accountability immediately took their argument to the Hamilton county election commission, asking for approval for a petition campaign from city voters.
That request was debated at length.
JERRY SUMMERS, COMMISSION MEMBER "There's going to be issues raised and raised, all we can do, in my opinion ..You know, I don't have a dog in this fight,whether they pass or don't and none of us do."
Chairman Mike Walden recessed the 8 am meeting for half an hour to contact the city attorney's office for clarification of the ordinance.
Getting no response, the election commission went ahead with a vote.
COMMISSION "We have a motion and second..all in favor say "Aye"...opposed, sustained..so moved."
MARK WEST, CHAIRMAN, CITIZENS FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY "One vote passed this, and in spite of the will of the people..so we contend, let's let the people decide something that created this kind of outcry."
The Citizens group now has two weeks to gather at least 4500 signatures of registered city voters, which could freeze the start of the benefits program and put the issue on the ballot in August of 2014.
Councilman Moses Freeman says a referendum is one way to settle the controversy, but he continues to support the city ordinance.
MOSES FREEMAN, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER "I believe firmly in my view. and of course having said that ..That means I'll carry that view through the election or whatever referendum that comes about."
Mark West says the petition campaign will lean heavily on church members who object to the Domestic Partners ordinance.