Hundreds of equality supporters are set to gather on the steps of City Hall Saturday afternoon to peacefully protest a resolution passed by state lawmakers last spring marking Aug. 31 as Traditional Marriage Day.
For Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson, the event is more than a protest. Anderson, who is the first openly gay elected official in city history, hopes the rally can serve as a step in the city's and state's eventual advance toward recognizing workers of all orientations.
"No one who is going to be at this rally wants to threaten traditional marriage," Anderson said in an interview with Nooga.com. "We just want equal treatment under the law. It's going to be a peaceful protest with lot of speakers."
Along with Anderson, Councilwoman Carol Berz and Kat Cooper, a Collegedale detective who played an integral role in the city recently becoming the first in the state to offer employee benefits for domestic partners, will address attendees. On Thursday, a Facebook page for the rally showed more than 375 supporters planning to attend.
Five months into a four-year term on City Council, Anderson said his orientation had not played into a single vote he had made. The councilman expressed interest in eventually seeing the city pursue a policy change of its own but offered few details of how a proposal might look.
"I would imagine that the people who elected me into office probably had some idea I would promote pro-equality measures," he said. "They certainly didn't vote for me thinking I wouldn't support same-sex benefits. I've only got one vote, but I'm pretty confident I could find four more."
Anderson said that in other municipalities across the nation a change in policy has often followed the election of a nonheterosexual official. The councilman also said that he sensed that Chattanooga, along with other major cities across Tennessee, were moving toward change.
"It's a really fast shift," he said. "And Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville are all racing in that direction."
Along with cities across the country, changes continue to be made to accommodate same-sex couples on the federal level after this summer's ruling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Next month, Anderson will travel to Nashville to deliver an address at an annual brunch for the Victory Fund, a national group that seeks to assist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates win seats in public office. The group endorsed Anderson's campaign earlier this year.
According to Anderson, the group is not as much concerned with perpetuating a "radical gay agenda" as much as it is committed to helping qualified candidates who are of LBGT orientation seek election.
"People don't care about [orientation]," Anderson said. "They care about the safety of their neighborhoods, the quality of the roads and jobs. Victory Fund knows that."
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