New Doraville ordinance targets discrimination by business owners

Doraville became the second city in Georgia to approve an anti-discrimination ordinance preventing business owners from discriminating against customers. 

The ordinance passed Monday with a 6-1 vote. Similar legislature was first approved in 2001 by the Atlanta City Council. 

Doraville’s rules would allow people to file complaints with the city against businesses who have allegedly discriminated against them on the basis of race, gender identity, disability and other identifiers.

The ordinance was promoted as a way to make Doraville a more inclusive city.

“I think it’s time for Doraville to take the lead on something and not be the last one in line,” said Councilwoman Stephe Koontz who sponsored the ordinance and became Georgia’s only transgender elected official when elected last November.

The ordinance wasn’t favorable for two council members — Pam Fleming and M.D. Naser — who said the measure won’t stop biased beliefs. 

“Discrimination is absolutely a personal issue that has become rampant throughout the United States possibly throughout Doraville,” Fleming said, “and I don’t think an ordinance is going to cure that issue until we bring it to light and say ‘Hey, where is your heart lying?’” 

Fleming was also concerned the ordinance, which is tied to business license applications, would possibly infringe on the rights of business owners. 

She cast the lone dissenting vote; Naser ultimately voted for it.

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“When (potential owners) apply for a business license, they’re agreeing to abide by all the ordinances in our city and this is one of them,” Koontz said. 

Koontz spent the past six months crafting the ordinance, which is modeled after a similar measure passed in Roeland Park, Kansas. She said she got the idea after reading reports of a landscaper denying service to a same-sex metro Atlanta couple. 

Former Atlanta City Councilwoman Cathy Woolard, who spearheaded that city’s ordinance, said in the 18 years it’s been in place, just 12 complaints have been filed with the city.  

“It tells you that frivolous cases do not come pouring through,” Woolard said at Monday’s council meeting.  

Atlanta’s ordinance has attracted businesses to city, Woolard said, something Koontz hopes will happen in Doraville. 

“It’s a step,” Koontz said. “You can’t change people’s hearts, but you can send a message as to what we as a city believe in.”

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