- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A judge will decide Monday whether a temporary restraining order will be issued to allow Chattanooga to trump the Hamilton County Election Commission in the wording of ballot referendum on the city’s domestic partner ordinance.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge W. Neil Thomas III says the ruling will come quickly to allow the losing side to file with an appeals court before the noon deadline to start printing ballots for the Aug. 7 election.

The argument is over who gets to write a question on the Aug. 7 ballot asking Chattanooga voters whether the city should provide benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

In November, Chattanooga became the third city in Tennessee to vote to expand benefits to same-sex couples.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported (https://bit.ly/THABMd ) that attorneys will be in court at 8 a.m. Monday. The Election Commission will await the judge’s order before acting.

Thomas heard an hour and a half of arguments Thursday afternoon from four parties — Chattanooga police Lt. Corliss Cooper and the city vs. the Hamilton County Election Commission and the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency.

Cooper and the city argued that the City Charter allows the city attorney to write a summary of the ordinance on the ballot so voters know more about what they’re voting on.

The Election Commission and CGAT said state election law trumps the charter, and that law says the people who sponsored the petition get to write the question for the ballot.

Two different ballots already have been sent out to 16 absentee voters, one with the city’s summary and a later one with CGAT’s wording and a letter of explanation.

___

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, https://www.timesfreepress.com

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