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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 28, 2006

Effort to keep rights law begins on Election Day

Cincinnati--With a bid to repeal the city�s new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality ordinance headed for the November ballot, Citizens to Restore Fairness is moving quickly to gather support for keeping the measure.

City council passed the ordinance last month but an anti-gay group presented petitions to force a vote on it, minutes before it was to take effect on April 14.

Voters have already cleared the way for the ordinance by repealing Article 12 of the city charter, which had banned such measures. CRF led the 2004 repeal campaign, and will use similar methods in this one.

�We are excited to reaffirm Cincinnati�s new progressive reputation of moving forward on issues of equality,� said Derek Mize, who is organizing the group�s �voter identification� effort during Tuesday�s primary election.

He expects to have 200 volunteers at the polls, who will speak with 5,000 Cincinnati voters. Mize also hopes to recruit more volunteers and contributors for the campaign during the Election Day effort.

In voter identification, volunteers have one-on-one conversations with voters to determine their level of support or opposition, which is entered in a database.

Supporters are targeted in later get-out-the-vote efforts and are asked to be campaign volunteers.

Persuasive messages are sent to undecided voters, which is the group Mize hopes to be the most effective with.

He said volunteers will ask if voters think discrimination against LGBT people is wrong, and if so, would they vote to affirm the human rights ordinance that council passed on March 15.

The new measure restored �sexual orientation� and added �transgendered status� to an ordinance passed in 1993 barring discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Gays and lesbians were removed from the original ordinance after Equal Rights Not Special Rights, led by Phil Burress of suburban Sharonville, got Article 12 passed that year.

The same group is now campaigning to repeal the new measure.

Mize said he is disappointed that once again Cincinnati voters need to be convinced that discrimination is wrong, but welcomes another opportunity for fair-minded community organizers to unite around the issue.

�This is another opportunity to empower us,� said Mize. �It makes us stronger as we talk to even more people. This is the third opportunity for us to talk about our lives and listen to the community�s concerns. If we work as hard in 2006 as we did in 2004, we will win.�

Paid petitioners� names concealed

Equal Rights Not Special Rights delivered 1,592 petition forms to the city�s finance office on April 14, just before the 30 day deadline was up.

According to their count, the forms contain �over 14,000� signatures.

The forms were sent to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on April 24 for signature verification, after a ten-day public inspection period.

ERNSR needs 7,654 signatures of Cincinnati registered voters--10% of the city�s votes in the 2002 gubernatorial election--to put the measure on the ballot.

Ohio law requires that petition circulators �file an itemized statement, made under penalty of election falsification, showing in detail� money or things of value paid for circulating petitions, �full names and addresses of all persons to whom such payments or promises were made,� and �names and addresses of anyone who contributed anything of value to be used in circulating such petitions.�

That statement, according to law, has to be filed within five days of the petitions.

ERNSR instead filed a statement April 19 saying that $40,000 was spent, then claiming a First Amendment right not to disclose the rest of the information.

That statement was signed by David Miller, who is acting as ERNSR�s agent. He is also vice president of Citizens for Community Values, another of Burress� anti-gay organizations.

Miller claims that a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, says he does not have to report the rest of the information.

The Buckley decision, even among justices in the majority, however, offers differing opinions on this.

The decision struck parts of a Colorado law on petition signature gatherers, banning some payments to them and requiring they wear badges identifying them as �paid� or �volunteer.� It said that petition circulation is �core political speech� for which First Amendment protection is �at its zenith.�

But the ruling also upheld an earlier decision saying �there must be some substantial regulation of elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort of order . . . is to accompany the democratic process.�

On the issue of paid circulator disclosure, the court said that what is important to the state�s interest in election integrity is �the payor, not the payees,� and �the added benefit of revealing the names of paid circulators and amounts paid to each circulator . . . has not been demonstrated.�

However, Justices Sandra Day O�Connor and Stephen Breyer, who were in the majority, offered a separate opinion that disagrees on the specific provision ERNSR is using.

�Most disturbing is the court�s holding that Colorado�s disclosure provisions are partially unconstitutional,� wrote O�Connor, calling the disclosure provision a �reasonable regulation of the electoral process.�

Funding sources hidden

CRF co-chair Gary Wright said this is just the latest attempt by Burress to hide campaign information that the public has the right to know.

Wright and former Cincinnati mayor Bobbi Sterne filed an elections complaint last year against Burress and his enterprises, accusing them of laundering approximately $3 million through Citizens for Community Values Action, a related nonprofit, to conceal the contributors to Burress� 2004 campaigns to defend Article 12 and pass an Ohio constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The Ohio Elections Commission took no action.

The statewide amendment campaign made no First Amendment claim to keep secret the names of the paid signature gatherers or how much they were paid. That information was written right on the petition forms.

Wright said his group has not yet decided whether or not to file a complaint on the latest petition.


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