Tucker adopts non-discrimination resolution; critics say it has no teeth

Frank Auman (left), Robin Biro (right)
Caption
Frank Auman (left), Robin Biro (right)

Credit: Frank Auman / Robin Biro

The city’s lack of a non-discrimination ordinance has been a rallying cry for opponents of Tucker’s current mayor this election cycle

Tucker officials adopted a resolution “to provide an inclusive, fair, and welcoming city” on Tuesday, but critics of current city leadership say it’s all for show.

Mayor Frank Auman, who is up for reelection, presented the resolution and said it’s the first step in a larger effort to prevent discrimination in the city. Tucker has considered adopting an ordinance that would outlaw discrimination by local businesses on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors, but Auman has had reservations about the specifics of the legislation, which could include fines.

Auman, the city’s founding mayor, has faced criticism from his opponent, Robin Biro, and DeKalb County Democrats over his handling of the matter. The policy has been a centerpiece of Biro’s campaign and has been discussed in several political forums ahead of the Nov. 2 elections.

“I’ve not pursued a resolution because some voices said it was not enough. Well, since the forum (by the Tucker Business Association/Tucker Civic Association on Sept. 29), I’ve heard from many other voices,” Auman said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “... These voices have urged me to present such a resolution to council because it does have meaning. It’s what’s in their hearts. It’s what’s in my heart.”

The council unanimously voted to adopt the resolution, which says no one should be discriminated upon based on “any person’s actual or perceived sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, age, physical/mental ability or disability, national origin, religion or beliefs, marital status, familial status, veteran or military status.” A copy of the resolution will be distributed annually to every business license holder in the city.

The resolution was a last-minute addition to Tuesday’s meeting agenda, and city spokesman Matt Holmes said it wasn’t ready when the agenda packet was being created. Auman said its based on similar resolutions in Columbus, Pine Lake and Stone Mountain.

In a Facebook group for Democrats in Tucker, Biro said Auman could have introduced this resolution at any point but chose Tuesday, when early voting began across the state. Partisan politics have bled into this local race, since Auman is the former chairman of the DeKalb County GOP and Biro was a field director for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

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One of Biro’s campaign promises is to bring the non-discrimination ordinance that was created by Tucker Open Door to the council within 60 days if elected. It includes legal recourse for violators, unlike Tuesday’s resolution.

“(Auman) has not one time since 2019 allowed for the draft nondiscrimination ordinance to be read for consideration, but in the 11th hour offers a resolution instead with no enforcement power because it is politically expedient to do so,” Biro’s post said.

Auman has repeatedly said he has reservations about the legislation. He said he understands why some people want this type of a policy in place, but he’s not sure the ordinance, as it was proposed, is the solution.

”There’s just no consensus in Tucker with it,” he said in September. “(It’s unclear) if it’s something we can involve ourselves in, and if we do, it’s a divisive thing that’s going to generate litigation immediately.”

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Biro has widespread support among DeKalb Democrats and other progressive elected officials in the county, including Doraville Councilwoman Stephe Koontz.

“Don’t be fooled by these campaign season theatrics,” Koontz said in a statement. “A non-discrimination resolution isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. I should know because I authored the model ordinance every city around Tucker has adopted, that Tucker refuses to even consider.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, councilmembers Anne Lerner, Matt Robbins and Pat Soltys said they will continue working on creating a framework of an eventual non-discrimination ordinance. Soltys said during the meeting that they’ll make sure the ordinance “is not only sustainable (but) protectable and defensible.”

“The intent of an NDO we can all agree upon,” Lerner said on Facebook. “It’s the legalese that needs to be worked on.”

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