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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 24, 2006

Effort to repeal Cincinnati's new rights ordinance
has begun

Cincinnati--As expected, an anti-gay group has begun the process of attempting to overturn Cincinnati�s new human rights ordinance.

Papers have been delivered to the city and county to begin a referendum campaign to repeal the measure.

The amendment to the city�s human rights ordinance, protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, passed city council 8 to 1 on March 15 with almost no organized opposition.

Voters cleared the way for the measure in 2004 by repealing Article 12 of the city charter, which prohibited such laws. The article was passed in a 1993 initiative reacting to the original human rights ordinance, which included sexual orientation.

That initiative was led by Citizens for Community Values president Phil Burress of suburban West Chester, whose enterprises are involved in nearly all the anti-gay activity in Ohio.

Before the new ordinance passed, Burress threatened, in newspapers and on conservative talk radio, to go to the voters again if it did.

A referendum would allow the voters to affirm or repeal council�s action at the ballot box on November 7.

To put it on the ballot, Burress has 30 days from the ordinance�s passage to collect 7,654 signatures of registered voters. The number is ten percent of the city residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election in 2002.

If those signatures are filed, the ordinance won�t take effect on April 14 as scheduled. If a majority of voters approve the referendum, the ordinance is repealed; if they don�t, it takes effect then.

�We�re prepared to defend the ordinance,� said Equality Cincinnati president Gary Wright, who also led the effort to repeal the charter article. �We have always known there would be a fight, and we would not have gone forward unless we were ready.�

CCV vice president David Miller says his group has decided on a campaign plan, but would not elaborate on it.

He referred all questions of that nature to Burress, who did not return calls.

Miller notified the city of a petition drive on March 17. He filed a memorandum identifying himself �as an agent for the committee designated to represent the petitioners of a proposed referendum to repeal� the ordinance. He also delivered a copy of the ordinance itself to the city finance department, as required by state law.

State Rep. Tom Brinkman delivered petitions to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on March 20. He is a close Burress associate and a principal of the Equal Rights Not Special Rights political action committee that campaigned for Article 12 in 1993.

However, a board spokesperson said those petitions were not officially filed, so the board is ignoring them and will not comment.

Brinkman is also suing Miami University to stop it from providing health benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of employees.

Equal Rights Not Special Rights has been reactivated, and paid for a full-page Cincinnati Enquirer ad against the ordinance the day before it passed. It is separate from a similarly-named Burress operation that campaigned in 2004 to keep Article 12. That group drops a T from the name to be Equal Rights No Special Rights.

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