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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 3, 2004

Remark was a jab at Issue 1, not gays, says Petro

Columbus--Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro says that a comment he made that some took as an anti-gay slur was actually a jab at a recently-passed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

�My remark was an intended slap at Issue 1, and it was clearly perceived as such by all of those staff present with whom I have subsequently spoken,� said Petro in a letter about the remark he made to a November 4 staff meeting.

�Under no circumstances would I make a homophobic joke,� said Petro, who is also a 2006 candidate for governor. �I think my expressions have been quite clear that Issue 1, taken as a whole, was bad policy that is bad for Ohio.�

Petro was the first Republican elected official to publicly oppose Issue 1, in late September.

�I am very sorry that an intentional misrepresentation was circulated, and that it was taken to be accurate,� the letter concluded.

Petro wrote the letter November 12 to Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization president Chris Cozad after a phone conversation between the two.

Cozad had called for Petro�s apology after a BRAVO client said that the attorney general made a remark about Issue 1 at the staff meeting.

�In the midst of telling a story about people kissing him on the cheek while campaigning,� said an email account circulated by BRAVO, �he stopped and said, �I mean just the women. We passed Issue 1, so we don�t have to deal with those people any more�.�

Cozad would not reveal the name of the person who made the report, other than to say, �It is a BRAVO client.� She says she now believes the complaint could have been purposely distorted for political reasons.

No one, including Petro spokesperson Kim Norris who attended the meeting, could recall what the attorney general said, other than it included a reference to Issue 1.

�But no way did he make an anti-gay joke,� said Norris.

Cozad, in a return letter, told Petro, �The LGBT community is feeling very bruised by passage of Issue 1. People are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. In light of the drastic shift to the right displayed in the recent election, LGBT folks are justifiably very afraid. We don�t know what this is going to mean for our lives. Many of us are seriously considering leaving our homes and lives for a safer place.

�The use of humor, in any context remotely connected to Issue 1, particularly the day after the election, indicates a certain lack of sensitivity.�

�Elected officials must serve as role models and particularly in these troubling times,� wrote Cozad, �need to be clear that the messages they send do not, even inadvertently, grant credibility or license to bigotry, discrimination or hate.�



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