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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 12, 2004


Petro asked to apologize for joke about gays

Columbus--Ohio�s top law enforcement officer has been asked to apologize for an anti-gay remark he reportedly made during a staff training session.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, a Republican and declared candidate for governor in 2006, has not denied making the remark in front of 1,100 employees on November 4.

An offended staffer told the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization that Petro was �in the midst of telling a story about people kissing him on the cheek while campaigning. 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.� �

The employee added that �half the crowd stood to their feet and cheered,� while �the union folks and 24 gay lawyers walked out.�

�It was a poor attempt of a joke on his part,� said Petro�s director of constituent services Mark Gribben. He added that he believes Petro meant no harm.

Gribben said he doesn�t remember anyone walking out of the meeting.

�I was working at the event, so I was listening, but otherwise engaged,� said Gribben.

Gribben said he recalls a reference to Issue 1 by Petro, but it was in reference to something about the cold the attorney general caught while campaigning the previous Sunday at a fundraiser.

�We were unaware of anything he said that could be construed as homophobic or gay bashing until we started getting phone calls,� said Gribben. �He was most likely speaking sarcastically.�

Gribben said he had gotten about 20 calls on the matter as of the morning of November 8.

There is no recording of the meeting.

Gribben guessed that Petro must have been poking fun at Issue 1, not gay people �from the standpoint that it is bad law.�

�The track record of our office on gay rights does not follow this,� said Gribben, noting that Petro was the first Republican state official to condemn Issue 1.

�He supports equal rights for partners and civil unions,� said Gribben, also adding that the office has been recognized for its commitment to diversity and its work helping small counties prosecute hate crimes.

BRAVO president Chris Cozad sent a letter to Petro the next day telling the attorney general �an immediate apology is in order.�

�Regardless of the details of the remark,� Cozad wrote, �this is completely unacceptable from a public servant, an elected official, and the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Ohio.�

�I know that you are well aware of the slippery slope from jokes to discrimination to violence,� Cozad continued. �Your remarks give tacit permission to hate LGBT people. You reinforced the perception that we are second class citizens, despite your opposition to State Issue 1.�



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