The city of Chamblee joined a regionwide effort to make metro Atlanta a safe space for LGBTQ people by passing a sweeping nondiscrimination ordinance on Tuesday.
The passage of the ordinance makes Chamblee only the fourth city in Georgia with such protections, and the second to do so in April.
“While we have a pretty large LGBTQ population, we had no protections for the LGBTQ community until [Tuesday] night,” Council Member Brian Mock (top photo), the sponsor of the ordinance, told Project Q Atlanta. “It says loud and clear that we as a city have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”
The Chamblee City Council passed the measure unanimously.
The nondiscrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment, housing and public accommodations. Chamblee joins Atlanta, Doraville and Clarkston as the only cities in Georgia with such protections.
The policy would also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, disability, marital status, familial status or veteran/military status.
Some 60 jurisdictions across the state offer nondiscrimination policies that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation in city employment. About 15 of those jurisdictions include gender identity in their protections in city employment.
Mock said the ordinance was needed in Chamblee “due to the state’s failure to act.”
Georgia is one of only three states without a statewide nondiscrimination law that protects any class of people.
“I would hope as more and more cities adopt such ordinances, the state legislature would be more proactive in working towards protections for everyone,” Mock said.
'This is a very big deal'
Mock called passing the nondiscrimination ordinance “one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with on council.”
“We mainly deal with development, police, roads and such,” he said. “It’s not often we delve into the world of civil rights policy making.”
Mock said they went through about 20 drafts of the ordinance over the past six months.
“But I’m proud that we ended up with a comprehensive [nondisccrimination ordinance] that’s well thought out, fair to all involved and we approved it unanimously,” he said. “As a city council, we are all very different in our thought process, so a 5-0 vote on an item such as this is a very big deal.”
Mock had help with the ordinance from Doraville City Council Member Stephe Koontz (second photo) and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard. He thanked both and said they had been “very supportive” throughout the process.
Woolard, the first openly LGBTQ elected official in Georgia history, led an effort to pass a nondiscrimination policy in Atlanta in 2001. Koontz, the first openly transgender elected official in Georgia history, spearheaded an effort to use Doraville’s policy as a model for other similarly-sized cities across metro Atlanta.
Woolard attended Tuesday’s council meeting.
To file a complaint under the ordinance, Chamblee residents must do so with the city clerk within 90 days of the alleged act of discrimination. A $50 filing fee is required, but that fee may be waived later in the process.
A hearing officer, who must be an attorney with experience in constitutional law and employment discrimination, will vet the complaint. Unless they decide to dismiss it, the hearing officer will refer the complaint to a mediator for voluntary non-binding mediation between the complainant and the alleged violator.
If the issue isn’t resolved in mediation, the complaint is referred back to the hearing officer. If the officer finds a violation has occurred, the offender can face a $500 fine for the first violation. Subsequent violations would incur a $1,000 fine and/or having their business license suspended or revoked. If the hearing officer recommends suspension or revocation of the offender’s business license, the city council would have the final decision in the matter.