Monday, February 2, 2004

Luken makes call for tolerance

He backs repeal of city's Article XII

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken will use his State of the City Address today to urge voters to repeal a decade-old charter amendment forbidding a gay rights ordinance.

Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken speaks with a Cincinnati resident Saturday at the Neighborhood Summit in the Cintas Center.
(Meggan Booker photo)
Luken will say the charter amendment gives Cincinnati a national image as an intolerant city and hurts the city's ability to be competitive among global businesses that increasingly value diversity.

Cincinnati voters passed Issue 3 with 68 percent of the vote in 1993, the year after City Council passed a gay rights ordinance. Now known as Article XII of the city charter, the amendment prohibits "minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment" based on sexual orientation.

Luken said diversity and tolerance will be major themes of his address.

"Putting it in the State of the City, and addressing it in that forum, makes it an issue that's engaged by the highest levels of the community," Luken said.

Luken's speech comes a week before gay rights advocates formally launch their campaign. Leaders of the Citizens to Restore Fairness, the official campaign committee, said they have collected the signatures necessary to place the repeal on the ballot, but won't file them until the Board of Elections begins accepting ballot issues for the November election.

No organized campaign has yet emerged to oppose the issue, but supporters are gearing for a fight. With attempts to ban gay marriage gaining steam in Columbus and Washington - and with Cincinnati as the only place in the country with such a provision - the Cincinnati campaign is likely to get national attention.

The mayor's speech will also mark the completion of a personal turnaround for Luken, who as mayor in the 1980s refused to issue a mayoral proclamation for Gay Pride Day.

Returning to the mayor's office in 1999 after nine years in Congress and as a television news anchor, Luken declared a "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day" in 2000 and is now an honorary board member of the Citizens to Restore Fairness.

"I won't deny that my attitude on such matters has changed," Luken said last week. "My attitudes about inclusiveness and openness have gotten better."

Opponents of Article XII said Luken's message could help convince Cincinnatians that times have changed since 1993.

"I think it's a reflection of people of goodwill - when they sit down and think about this issue - realizing it's unfair to single out one group and say, 'You can't go to City Council to ask that you're not discriminated against,'" said Gary Wright, co-chairman of the Committee to Restore Fairness.

"What you're seeing right now is that the mainstream of leaders in the city - in city hall, in the business community, religious and civic groups - they're lining up behind this issue," he said. "This kind of leadership by the mayor will help people understand what the issue is about."

What Article XII says

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken will urge the repeal of Article XII of the city's charter in his State of the City Address today. Article XII reads:

"The City of Cincinnati and its various Boards and Commissions may not enact, adopt, enforce or administer any ordinance, regulation, rule or policy which provides that homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, status, conduct, or relationship constitutes, entitled, or otherwise provides a person with the basis to have any claim of minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment. This provision of the City Charter shall in all respects be self-executing. Any ordinance, regulation, rule or policy enacted before this amendment is adopted that violates the foregoing prohibition shall be null and void and of no force or effect."



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