By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A Cincinnati charter amendment that prohibits City Council from passing anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation is morally wrong and should be repealed, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk said Friday.
In a statement in the Catholic Telegraph - the diocesan newspaper of which Pilarczyk is publisher - the archbishop gave his support to the campaign to repeal the decade-old charter amendment, known as Article XII.
Excerpts from Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk's letter urging repeal of Article XII of the city charter:
"It is not right to mistreat persons or to be legally able to mistreat persons on the basis of their homosexual orientation. All human beings have certain basic human rights. To provide by law for the potential violation of these rights because of sexual orientation is simply unjust.''
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sure guide to official church teaching, makes it clear both that homosexual activity is wrong and that unjust discrimination on the basis of homosexual orientation is wrong. It says that homosexually oriented persons 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.' For this reason, I believe that Article XII of the Charter of the City of Cincinnati should be repealed."
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."
But Pilarczyk's nuanced statement also made clear that he still opposes the 1992 gay rights ordinance that led voters to approve the charter amendment, because it "made homosexual behavior as legally acceptable as heterosexual behavior."
The distinction is this: While homosexual behavior should not be tolerated, those with a homosexual orientation should be protected from discrimination, Pilarczyk said.
"I believe now, as I believed at the time of its passage, that Article XII is as detrimental to the public good as the ordinance that it invalidated," Pilarczyk said in the Telegraph. There are 500,000 Catholics in the 19-county archdiocese.
The statement comes two weeks after the Citizens to Restore Fairness, which supports the repeal, said it has gathered the needed signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
Pilarczyk, a downtown resident, did not instruct Catholic Cincinnatians how to vote on the issue. Instead, a spokesman said, it was intended as a "considered opinion based on the teachings of the Catholic Church."
State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr., a Catholic who serves as treasurer of the campaign to keep Article XII, said he won't argue with the archbishop on church teaching. But he said Pilarczyk misunderstands what Article XII says.
"Article XII is completely consistent with church teaching. It does not discriminate, nor does it give special treatment to homosexuals," said Brinkman, a Republican from Mount Lookout. "It has always been equal rights - not special rights."
Supporters of Article XII said the language of the amendment simply requires City Council to stay neutral on gay rights.
It prohibits City Council from passing any ordinance "which provides that homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, status, conduct or relationship constitutes, entitles, or otherwise provides a person with the basis to have any claim of minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment."
But gay rights advocates say the amendment implicitly condones discrimination.
The archbishop joins the list of more than 40 other religious leaders - Catholic, Protestant and Jewish - who support the repeal, according to the Citizens to Restore Fairness.
Pilarczyk also opposed the charter amendment in 1993. But he noted that since then, the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope John Paul II specifically urged tolerance of people with a homosexual orientation - if not their behavior.
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible," the catechism says in Paragraph 2358. "They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
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