Tucker non-discrimination law still in limbo after opposition from mayor
Mayor Frank Auman will host a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss his stance on the civil rights ordinance
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) -The City of Tucker in DeKalb County is closing in on a non-disclosure ordinance but an important player, the city’s mayor, doesn’t seem to be on board.
Mayor Frank Auman is hosting a town hall meeting on Thursday to discuss his thoughts on the non-discrimination order that would guarantee equal protections to Tucker citizens based on gender, sexual orientation, race, religion and a person’s status as a veteran or disabled individual.
It would allow anyone, for just a filing fee, the ability to file a case against an entity they feel is discriminating against them and have it mediated. The ordinance, first proposed back in 2019, prohibits any discrimination based in employment, housing, or public accommodation.
“This is a big club, it’s a big bludgeon that we’re putting in the hands of all kinds of people,” said Auman at a May 8th meeting where the ordinance was discussed. “We’ve done nothing, I’m sure some of you will be quick to remind me, for four years. Tell me stories that have happened in the meantime. Tell me about the problem. Has it gotten worse, better, gone away? What’s happened, and what if we continue to do nothing? I think it’s a fair question.”
Georgia offers no statewide civil rights protections and Tucker would become just the thirteenth city or county in the state to craft their own non-discrimination language. Included amongst those localities that do have ordinances are Atlanta, Smyrna, Brookhaven, Clarkston, Chamblee, East Point, and Decatur.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s needed but I do think it is at a local level,” said Tucker council member Alexis Weaver, who supports the ordinance and says many of her fellow council members do too.
“I think it represents our values, hopefully it is rare if not ever used,” she continued. “It’s not something that should be controversial.”
Mayor Auman had no comment when asked to expand on his comments from the May 8th meeting, where he noted that the law is a “moving target” because of transgender and gender fluid protections in the ordinance.
“A person today identifies one way, tomorrow they identify another way,” he said. “How can the law define a protected class which, by its very definition, is subject to change from day to day?”
Data shows cases of transgender individuals changing their minds and “detransitioning” are extremely low.
Auman also expressed concern over religious protections and exemptions to the order.
“I’m concerned about faith organizations, I’m concerned about schools attached to churches, and commercial versus non-commercial property that they own and how the government tells them that they can use it,” he said during the May 8th meeting. “Drafting an ordinance like this on that premise is giving up. It’s saying, there is no solution but a government solution. The government has to step in, the government has to lay down the law, the government has to tell you how to think and what to say and what to believe, no dissention allowed. We have better options, we need to explore them.”
But Weaver, who is herself and ordained Baptist deacon, says the law follows all existing state and federal guidelines of religious exemptions - even including the IRS definition of a religious group exempt from certain statues.
“It is very consistent, it’s not unique language,” she said. “It makes sure to follow the letter of the law when it comes to religious protections, models state law when it comes to religious liberty and religious protections.”
Some groups that have been fighting for the ordinances’ passage since 2019 are hopeful that it has the support to clear the council.
It takes two public readings and only two council members to bring a vote on an ordinance and the mayor, like each council member, only gets one vote. A second and final reading is scheduled for June 12th.
“We’re a new city, we were founded in 2016, and I think this gives us an opportunity to make a statement on discrimination as kind of a foundation for the city,” said George Wellborn with the group Tucker Open Door.
The group was the first and still is the most fervent pushing for passage.
“This ordinance is a powerful idea, it appeals to people’s innate sense of right and wrong and justice and that’s why it has broad support and that’s why it continues to endure after four years, and that’s why I think we’re going to win,” said Wellborn.
Thursday’s town hall will accommodate 100 people. Tickets should be sought through your Tucker city council member and there will also be a small handful of walk in spots left open. It will take place at Tucker City Hall located at 1975 Lakeside Pkwy, Suite 350 in Tucker, Georgia 30084.
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