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Chattanooga's first openly gay councilman filed suit to stop recall

Openly gay city councilman Chris Anderson
Openly gay city councilman Chris AndersonWillie Carlisle / Examiner.com

Councilman Chris Anderson filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court today in an effort to stop the recall petition against him. Anderson is the first openly gay elected official in Chattanooga's history and is fighting to keep his position and represent the people in District 7 who elected him.

Anderson has been representing the citizens of District 7 for about nine months. He is contending in his lawsuit that one of the plaintiffs in the petition against him serving in his current position is not even a resident in his district.

Anderson made no secret of his sexual orientation during his campaign for City Council because he did not want it to become an issue during the campaign.

Manny Rico formerly held the seat currently occupied by Anderson said during the campaign:

"I've heard comments about it, but I'm not going there," Rico said. "It's not the reason he would not make a good councilman—it's just cause he's not qualified. City Council is a full-time job, and Chris being openly gay has nothing to do with his ability to be a leader or an elected official."

The organization behind the recall is the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency. They are a Tea Party organization who claims that Anderson is not representing his constituents by sponsoring a referendum to be placed on the Aug. 7 election ballot asking voters whether to allow same-sex benefits for Chattanooga public employees.

The organization needed to get 1,600 signatures on the recall petition before presenting it to the Election Commission. That number represents 15 percent of the number of registered voters residing in District 7.

District 7 is a predominately African-American district. According to an article today in the Chattanoogan:

Chris Anderson has repeatedly shown disrespect toward the Community Leaders in Alton Park and Piney Woods and has publicly humiliated them by making such statements as: “I don’t have to meet with you,” and “I can’t undo years of neglect from my predecessors and it’s not my problem.” He has also referred to our leaders as being “uncivil,” “uneducated,” and referring to the people who live in our district as “those people.

Anderson is receiving support from the Victory Fund which is the organization that helped in organizing his campaign.

Victory Fund said in a statement:

“Councilman Chris Anderson was an endorsed candidate by the Victory Fund in 2013 and we stand next to him today to fight the stigma of LGBT candidates,” said Torey Carter, chief operating officer at the Victory Fund. “We are confident that Anderson’s constituents will stand next to him and will fight to help keep him in office to help better their community.”

The recall petition submitted to the Election Commission was approved last week when the required number of signatures were submitted before the April 29, 2014 deadline. If Anderson is unsuccessful in stopping the recall, the initiative will be placed on the ballot in August 2014 for the November election.

Anderson who is new to politics is a longtime resident and businessman in Chattanooga. He was in Charlotte during the Democratic Convention of 2013 to vote on the party's platform. That platform recognized the rights of all citizens including those of the LGBT community. Anderson posted a photo on his Facebook page that read, "If I am to be subject yo a recall because I fought for equal rights, so be it."