With its city commission giving unanimous approval this week Decatur became the fifth DeKalb County city and sixth in Georgia to pass a non-discrimination ordinance. The others are Doraville, Clarkston, Chamblee, Dunwoody and the City of Atlanta, whose ordinance dates to 2001.
As City Manager Andrea Arnold pointed out at the Nov. 18 commission meeting, this ordinance applies only to those businesses licensed by the city.
“This doesn’t apply to the schools or the city government,” Arnold said. “I’m not saying we are exempting ourselves because we have our own non-discriminatory policy and so does [City Schools of Decatur].”
Dating as far back as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, discrimination has been prohibited against federally protected classes like race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, age or military status.
Along with those federally protected classes, however, the new ordinances prohibit local businesses from discrimination against previously non-protected classes like sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination is prohibited in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodation.
There are currently no federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. If or when those laws are passed they would supersede local laws.
The new Decatur ordinance outlines clear steps for filing a complaint, starting with the city manager and on through to the city’s municipal court or through voluntary mediation.
The initial penalty for violation is a $500 and $1000 for any subsequent violation.
According to Decatur Assistant City Manager Linda Harris, none of the other five cities with non-discrimination ordinances has so far received a complaint.
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