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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 10, 2006

Cincinnati ready to restore human rights ordinance


Cincinnati--Sixteen months after Article 12 was repealed, city council is ready to amend Cincinnati�s human rights ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Voters cleared the way for the change in November 2004 by repealing the city charter article, which prohibited it.

Article 12 was passed by voters in 1993 in reaction to the city�s original human rights ordinance, passed the year before, which included sexual orientation.

With the article in place, council repealed the sexual orientation part in 1995. The ordinance now protects on the basis of religion, gender, race, color, age, disability, marital status and ethnic, national, or Appalachian regional origin.

The change was introduced March 7 by councilor David Crowley. Councilors Laketa Cole, Chris Bortz, John Cranley and vice mayor Jim Tarbell are co-sponsors. Bortz and Tarbell are members of Cincinnati�s Charter Party. The rest are Democrats.

The LGBT advocacy group Equality Cincinnati was involved in the ordinance�s development.

Crowley said he�s sure the ordinance will pass with at least seven, and most likely eight votes.

Only Republican Chris Monzel is expected to vote against it.

Crowley said Republican member Leslie Ghiz will get the most pressure to oppose the ordinance, but that she has been supportive when discussing it.

Mayor Mark Mallory, a Democrat and former state senator, is expected to sign the ordinance into law.

�I think it is time for the city to move forward and be a place where everyone feels welcome,� Cole said. �It�s time to put the gearshift in drive and get rid of discrimination of all kinds here.�

Crowley said there is some confusion among voters who think that the repeal of Article 12 automatically restored the ordinance to being LGBT inclusive.

�There is a consensus that the city already did something for gay people,� said Crowley, �and there are questions as to what is being asked for.�

�But Cincinnati is a different place than it was in 1993,� said Crowley, adding that he expects this ordinance to hold.

Crowley added that city council is committed to fighting for the ordinance if it is challenged.

Burress vows a petition campaign

Citizens for Community Values president Phil Burress, who campaigned to pass the 1993 charter article and also to oppose its repeal, has promised another petition drive if the ordinance passes.

With the same demand used in 1993 that the voters, not council, should decide the issue, Burress told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he would collect the 7,000 signatures required in 30 days to put a referendum on the ballot. He has not said whether he would attempt to reinstate Article 12 or merely repeal the ordinance.

Burress appeared on the Lincoln Ware radio show targeted to the African American community on March 8, ginning up opposition to the ordinance by promoting the �ex-gay� ministry Exodus International and saying that behavior should not be protected from discrimination. He also asserted that the ordinance would lead to gay marriage.

The ordinance will be heard by the Law and Public Safety Committee at 2 pm on March 14. That committee is chaired by Democrat Cecil Thomas. The vice chair is Ghiz, and other members are its cosponsors Cranley and Tarbell, plus Jeff Berding, a Democrat. Ordinance opponent Monzel is also on the committee.

The measure is expected to come out of committee and could be passed by the entire council as early as March 15. Crowley said if they decide to pass it as an �emergency� measure, it would take effect upon the mayor�s signing. Otherwise, it would take effect in 90 days.

A dozen other Ohio cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, have equal rights ordinances that include sexual orientation. One, Toledo, also covers gender identity. No federal or Ohio state law includes either one.

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