Nondiscrimination policy debate stirs up Tucker elections

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The two-year-long battle to get an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Tucker has residents ready to take out their frustrations on candidates and elected officials on the ballot in November.

Eleven candidates are up for four open seats on the Tucker City Council. Mayor Frank Auman — who continually blocks any progress on the ordinance — faces Robin Biro, a gay political pundit and retired U.S. Army ranger who strongly supports the measure.

“There are plenty of options out there for people to make a different decision with someone who wants to address the situation,” Damyon Claar-Pressley told Project Q Atlanta.

Claar-Pressley is the openly LGBTQ chair of Tucker’s Downtown Development Authority. They and two LGBTQ members of the city’s Planning Commission presented the ordinance to the city council in 2019.

“We continue to ask about it with no traction, not even consideration or talk about it in a work session,” Claar-Pressley said. “I’m a little surprised because the election is coming up and there’s a lot of chatter around town and chatter in the local town Facebook groups and still they just refuse to address it in any way.”

Seven other cities in DeKalb County passed non-discrimination policies in the last three years. Thirteen have done so across the state.

Similar to those policies, the Tucker measure would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment, housing and public accommodations. It also bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, religious expression, sex, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, citizenship status, marital status, familial status, genetic information and veteran/military status.

Imani Barnes would be the first LGBTQ and first Black member of the Tucker City Council if elected in District 2, Seat 1. (Photo by Shondria Shontae)

LGBTQ research scientist running for council

Several city council candidates vow to push for the ordinance if elected in November.

Alexis Weaver said she is an “enthusiastic supporter.” She is one of three candidates in the District Three, Post One race.

“The lack of willingness of our elected officials to even discuss the proposed ordinance is a glaring example of failed leadership and speaks to the urgent need for new voices on the Tucker City Council who value diversity and will take this first, most basic step toward inclusion,” she said.

All three candidates in the District Two, Post One race support the ordinance, including Imani Barnes, who would become the council’s first LGBTQ and first Black member ever. The other candidates are Cara Schroeder and Thomas Walker.

Walker told Project Q that the current draft of the ordinance “has a lot of problems.” He objects to the inclusion of citizenship status as a protected class and raises several questions about how hearings will be conducted and hearing officers chosen. He also wants to require employers who violate the ordinance to provide the city with a corrective action plan.

“The goal should be to prevent discrimination rather than punish and collect fines, although fines are appropriate to repeat offenders,” Walker said.

Claar-Pressley doubted Walker will come through if elected.

“I don’t think he’ll do the work to get it there,” they said.

U.S. Army veteran and Democratic Party strategist Robin Biro is running for Tucker mayor. (Photo courtesy Biro campaign)

Biro to make NDO a priority as mayor

All three candidates in the District One, Post Two race – Virginia Rece, Shawn Woods and Christine Bloodworth – support the ordinance.

“I believe every single person is a child of God and should be treated with respect and dignity regardless of different economic backgrounds, race, color, or sexual orientation or identity, where we all can be a part of a community where we can thrive, prosper and enjoy a life filled with joy and opportunity,” Rece said.

Woods said it was “appalling” that Auman has called the ordinance divisive. If elected, he will ask the mayor to put it on the city council agenda within 30 days of being sworn in.

Bloodworth said Tucker is overdue in passing the measure.

“Discrimination and harassment based upon sexual identity is not acceptable,” she said.

In District One, Post One, neither candidate responded to Project Q’s questions about the ordinance. Roger Orlando and Karen Peters-Rivers are running for the seat.

City Councilmembers Noelle Monferdini and Anne Lerner are not up for re-election this year. Lerner has long supported the ordinance. Monferdini did not respond to questions about it.

Biro would make the ordinance a priority if elected. He would also be the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor.

“[Auman] won’t hear the amendment,” Biro said last month. “He’s refused to let it be read for consideration. He said discrimination doesn’t exist in Tucker so we don’t need one.”

Auman did not respond to questions about the ordinance.

Tucker residents voted to incorporate in 2015 and elected the city’s first mayor and city council in 2016.

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