A newly released draft of Brookhaven’s nondiscrimination ordinance that includes protections for LGBTQ people would be named for a local gay activist and outlines a complaint process with fines and potential bans for businesses that violate it.
The City Council is scheduled to review the ordinance at its Dec. 10 meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 4362 Peachtree Road. A vote on the ordinance is expected in January.
The ordinance would be named the “Richard Rhodes Nondiscrimination Ordinance.” Rhodes, a gay resident and activist, asked the City Council earlier this year to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance that would ban local businesses from discriminating against minority groups, including LGBTQ people. He died in July at 81. Since then, friends and supporters have taken up his cause to get the ordinance passed.
As currently drafted, the LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance would ban businesses from discriminating against anyone based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status, or veteran/military status.
If the ordinance is approved, a person alleging discrimination could file a complaint with the city manager within 90 days of the alleged incident. The city manager would then inform the city attorney who would investigate the allegation and work with both parties to reach a resolution to the complaint.
If the parties fail to reach a resolution with the city attorney within 30 days, then the case would go to city-appointed hearing officer who would make a final determination. The losing party would be able to appeal to DeKalb County Superior Court.
If found guilty of discrimination, a person or business could face a $1,000 fine for the first violation and $2,000 for the next violations. A business with more three violations could lose their right to operate in Brookhaven, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance also provides for voluntary mediation. This would allow the person alleging discrimination and the alleged violator to enter private mediation talks with a mediator not associated with the city. Costs for the private mediation would be shared between the two parties.
Councilmember Linley Jones and Councilmember-elect Madeleine Simmons co-hosted a community meeting on Dec. 5 to get community input on the ordinance. Jones had said that the city might consider a resolution rather than an ordinance. But after gaining more information, she said she believes the draft ordinance is legally enforceable and constitutional.
If Brookhaven does pass the nondiscrimination ordinance, it would join six other metro Atlanta cities in the past year which have passed similar ordinances to ban discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations, including against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Doraville first passed its ordinance in 2018; the city of Atlanta has had a similar ordinances on the books for nearly 20 years. Other cities with LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances include Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur and Dunwoody.
There is currently no state law protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, including being fired for being gay. There is no federal law banning discrimination against LGBTQ people