Decatur activist criticizes city for lack of non-discrimination ordinance

At the June 17 Decatur City Commission meeting local activist, Clare Schexnyder, criticized the city for lacking a non-discrimination ordinance in light of the recently declared LGBTQ pride month locally by Mayor Patti Garrett.

Schexnyder saw several of the city commissioners on Aug. 15 and was told that the ordinance was “front line” and in the process.

The non-discrimination ordinance would provide legal protection for employees and consumers of Decatur businesses who feel as if they have been discriminated against based on “religion, race, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status.”

The state of Georgia prohibits any legal action for anyone based on the statuses. Currently, this means that if one is in the protected class and feels violated, they have to file a federal lawsuit.

“When you don’t offer an ordinance like that, it’s basically saying, ‘We don’t want to give you protection, and you might not be safe in our city because we don’t want to spend the money or legal effort to make sure that you are protected and your rights aren’t violated,’” Schexnyder said.

In the last couple of years, other cities in the area—such as Doraville, Dunwoody, Clarkston and Chamblee—have been taking this lead in protections for people by enacting non-discrimination ordinances.

“We should have been first to do it based on our track record of being a liberal city,” Schexnyder said. “But the reality is that we are not [as liberal anymore]. We are much more white and conservative and rich than we were 10 years ago. A lot of people will say we are diverse during the day and white at night because a lot of the people that come to live and work in the city…can’t afford to live here, so they leave, and it’s a huge problem.”

Schexnyder attributes the lack of this ordinance to two primary factors: the legal battle on moving the confederate monument from the Decatur Square, and a gubernatorial candidate criticising Decatur for expressing themselves as a sanctuary city.

“[Both of those events] had gone really bad for them…… I think they made [the City of Decatur government] scared to do the right thing,” Schexnyder said. 

Doing the right thing, according to Schexnyder, would be to pass a non-discrimination ordinance that would portray “Decatur as an inclusive place that respects people that are LGBTQ and of color.”

“[Decatur is] resting on their laurels of having festivals here, winning awards, but they don’t want to do the hard parts of governing. Sticking up for people is hard, it’s inconvenient, you have to have lawyers, you have to do the work, but that’s the important part [of governing],” Schexnyder said.