Decatur adopts sweeping LGBTQ nondiscrimination policy

The Decatur City Commission unanimously passed a broad LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance on Monday, making it the sixth Georgia city to do so.

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett (photo bottom right) celebrated the move in a press release.

“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,” she said.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment, housing and public accommodations. The ordinance also bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, disability, marital status, familial status or veteran/military status.

Decatur joins Atlanta, Doraville, Clarkston, Chamblee and Dunwoody as the only cities in Georgia with such protections. Five of those cities have adopted the policies in the past year. Decatur is the fifth city in DeKalb County to adopt such an ordinance. 

Decatur has been working on the ordinance for the past year, according to City Manager Andrea Arnold. 

“We have gotten lots of input and guidance from the other metro Atlanta cities [that have passed such ordinances], champions from the LGBTQ community, the Better Together advisory board and many others to craft an ordinance that does reflect the city’s commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity,” she said during Monday’s meeting.

The city will partner with Better Together — the city’s diversity board — to educate residents, visitors and business owners about the new ordinance.

“Whether you want to live here, if you want to work here or you just want to enjoy visiting here, we believe that everyone should be protected from discrimination,” Arnold said. 

Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham told Project Q Atlanta that he was "thrilled" that Decatur adopted the ordinance.

"While they've had a long-time reputation for inclusion and acceptance of the LGBT community, it's nice that local laws will now be clear that those who live, work or shop in Decatur can do so without fear of discrimination," he said. "The fact that this was supported by local residents and was adopted unanimously affirms that these protections are widely supported."

"I hope that other municipalities throughout Georgia will follow their example," he added.

A Decatur activist called out city leaders in June for falling behind other cities in not adopting such protections. She said the city’s progressive reputation was “fading fast.”

City leaders addressed the criticism during a city commission work session earlier this month, saying they wanted to be thorough about creating an ordinance tailored for Decatur.

Complaints filed under the ordinance will be decided on in the city’s court system. Offenders found guilty of discrimination under the ordinance would be fined $500 for a first offense and $1000 for subsequent offenses.

A diversity and inclusion task force in Smyrna launched a petition to garner support for a nondiscrimination ordinance in August. Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst told Project Q in October that he expects the city to pass a similar ordinance by the end of the year.