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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 7, 2005

Equality measure may take months or years

Article 12 is gone, but caution is needed to restore Cincinnati equal rights ordinance

Cincinnati--Although the passage of Issue 3 in November now allows it, city council will move with slow caution to restore gays and lesbians to the city�s equal rights ordinance. A measure to do so may not come for months or years.

�We need to be ready for reactionary forces before we pass it,� said council member John Cranley, who noted that a majority of council favors doing so. �We could do it tomorrow, but there would be a petition drive in November to reinstate Article 12.�

Issue 3 repealed the article, which barred the city from having any law to protect people from discrimination by sexual orientation. Voters had enacted Article 12 in 1993, a year after council passed an equal rights ordinance that included gays and lesbians.

While the equal rights measure is still in place, passing Issue 3 does not automatically return sexual orientation to it because council repealed that part in 1995.

Citizens to Restore Fairness co-chair Gary Wright said he agrees with the �need to be deliberate about this.�

CRF was formed by LGBT leaders, allies, political and civic leaders to pass Issue 3. Wright said that they are now discussing the group�s next steps. These could include advocating for an ordinance including sexual orientation and gender identity, or working to repeal Ohio�s Issue 1 constitutional amendment against same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Wright said the campaign to repeal Article 12 was limited to only that, and some of their supporters will not be on board to do anything else. Wright specifically mentioned Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of the Catholic diocese.

�The archbishop was in favor of repealing Article 12, but opposes a civil rights ordinance,� said Wright, who believes that there are a significant number of voters who feel the same way.

�We don�t want to jeopardize this victory [the repeal of Article 12] by facing a �we told you so� campaign before there is energy to fight again,� said council member David Pepper.

Might not be sustainable

Pepper and Cranley, both Democrats, each said that if such an ordinance was before council today, it would pass with seven of nine members voting for it.

But both also said that it would not be wise to pass something that might not be sustainable yet.

�The election was not a landslide,� said Cranley, �and the other side has deep pockets. We could be asking our side to spend again right after a 2�-year campaign, and we don�t have it. When we pass [the ordinance] we have to be prepared to fight tooth and nail for it. It�s foolhardy not to recognize that we could have that fight.�

Wright agrees.

�We won with 54 percent,� said Wright. �But we wanted 60 percent. If we would have had 60 percent, we would have gone ahead with the ordinance the next day.�

The campaign to repeal Article 12 was the most expensive in the city�s history.

CRF spent $847,445 on it, much of which came from individual donors at house parties.

Equal Rights No Special Rights, run by anti-gay crusader Phil Burress of West Chester, spent more than $1.25 million trying to sustain the article. Burress is hiding the identity of ERNSR�s contributors by passing the money through his other enterprises that don�t disclose under Ohio election law.

Wright said CRF was not prepared to go back to its supporters so soon under those circumstances.

Six months or longer

Wright said it might be another six months or longer �depending on what we find as we go forward� before an ordinance will happen.

�We need to go back to our coalition and find out who is with us and who is against us on this,� said Wright.

The council members� timetables are a little longer.

Cranley said he is optimistic the ordinance will happen �in the next couple of years.�

Cranley sponsored the city�s 2003 hate crime ordinance that includes sexual orientation. He said that gay leaders who were then just beginning the effort to repeal Article 12 tried to dissuade him from sponsoring the hate measure because �there would be too many gay issues in too short a time.�

Cranley said the hate crime ordinance, which passed 7-2, succeeded because victims came forward with evidence the measure was needed after the New Year�s Eve murder of 21-year-old, openly gay Gregory Beauchamp. He said the same will happen for the equal rights ordinance.

�It will be justified to the extent that discrimination does exist through a record of testimony and anecdotal evidence,� said Cranley.

Wright said that when an ordinance is put forward, �there will be no misunderstanding why its necessary, and the people will know why its foolish to repeal it again.�




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