Protecting LGBTQ Equality In Chattanooga: Your Vote Matters

by Rev . Ken Carroll

Imagine with me, if you will, being on a romantic date. Everything is perfect—the food, the conversation, even the ambiance. It’s an amazing evening.

While you are enjoying dinner, your boss who happens to be eating in the same restaurant, passes by and stops to say hello, so you introduce your date to your boss. Now, imagine going to work the next morning to find your things boxed up with a message to go directly to your boss’ office, where you are told that you are being let go.

You were fired because your boss did not like the fact that your date was the same gender as you.

This is a reality for many in the LGBTQ community. Many cities do not have non-discrimination policies in affect, meaning a person who identifies—or is thought to identify—as LGBTQ can be fired. Not because they cannot perform their job or because their work is substandard, but because of who they love or who they are. This is a tragic reality for many. It is discrimination at the core and should be unacceptable to us as Americans.

The truth of the matter is that the loss of a job has far reaching consequences. It affects the company, the individual, the family, and even the community. The stress of losing a job is damaging enough, but to lose a job for who you are can be damaging to the psyche. Self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy can occur, thus making the search for a new job even more difficult. Unemployment can cause hungry children, unpaid bills, and the loss of a home, amongst other things.

The fact that we as a society can tolerate this is a tragedy. We must work to insure anti-discrimination policies are a reality at local, city, state, and federal levels. Recently, the Chattanooga City Council passed such an ordinance to protect LGBTQ individuals. Yet the victory of such a policy was short-lived when an opposition group petitioned a ballot initiative for a public vote.

Now we are working to educate voters to support the initiative and protect the lives of the Chattanooga LGBTQ community.

As a Christian and a minister of the gospel, I believe in following the teaching of Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus’ ministry makes it clear that this means all of our neighbors. The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us we are called to love those who are different from us or who differ in their beliefs. This is why I am concerned that hard working city employees right here in Chattanooga can be fired simply because they are gay or transgender.

This simply does not match up with the teachings of Jesus to love our neighbors.

I was so proud of our City Council in November when they passed the ordinance that will apply current nondiscrimination policies to all of our city workers, including those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. But in attempt to reverse what our elected City Council members have already passed, this ordinance has since been petitioned to be placed on the August 7th ballot vote. Those who are opposing the ordinance have claimed to do so in the name of morality, family values, and even Christian principles.

Discrimination is not a family value, and it is not a Christian value. Discrimination hurts real people in our community.

My city is facing a critical vote on August 7th that will determine the atmosphere of Chattanooga. We want to send a message that we, as a city, value all people. We do not want to send a message that Chattanooga is a city of exclusion and discrimination who disregard our hard working city employees.

I, for one, will be voting for the preservation of our City Council’s Nondiscrimination and Domestic Partnership Ordinance. I urge my fellow Chattanoogans to prayerfully do the same, fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. I also encourage those of you reading this blog to actively support similar measures within your local, state, and federal area.

As people of faith, we must not allow discrimination to rule our society.

Photo via flickr user Charlene N. Simmons