Thursday, August 12, 2004

'Special rights' foes will sue


Amendment supporters say ballot wording deceptive

By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer

CHARTER TEXT
The text of Article XII of Cincinnati's charter, approved by voters in 1993:

"The City of Cincinnati and its various Boards and Commissions may not enact, adopt, enforce or administer an ordinance, regulation, rule or policy which provides that homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, status, conduct, or relationship constitutes, entitles or otherwise provides a person with a basis to have a 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."

Supporters of a 1993 Cincinnati charter amendment that blocks City Council from passing a gay-rights ordinance say they'll go to court today to challenge an effort to repeal that amendment.

The Equal Rights Not Special Rights Committee said it's not trying to keep the repeal of the amendment now known as Article XII off the November ballot. But the group, closely affiliated with the Loveland-based conservative group Citizens for Community Values, does want to change ballot language that it calls "biased and misleading."

That language now reads: "Shall the charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to repeal Article XII, which prohibits the city from protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation?"

The Citizens to Restore Fairness collected more than 14,000 signatures on a petition to repeal the law. Their proposed ballot language was approved by City Council last week and sent to the Board of Elections.

Phil Burress, the president of the pro-Article XII group, wants to strike everything after the comma, which he said is "editorializing," and replace it with the verbatim text of Article XII itself - the same language voters saw in 1993.

"The word 'discrimination' is not mentioned in Article XII. It has nothing to do with discrimination," he said. "This is the crux of the whole debate. They say it's about discrimination. We said in 1993 it wasn't, and the federal courts upheld our position, so obviously it's not."

The 1993 charter amendment, approved with 62 percent of the vote, prohibits City Council from conferring "minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment" based on homosexual behavior or orientation.

The effect was to overturn a provision in the 1992 human rights ordinance.

The ordinance included sexual orientation in a law that also prohibited discrimination based on race; gender; age; color; religion; disability status; marital status; or ethnic, national or Appalachian origin.

The repeal campaign said it just became aware of a potential legal challenge late Wednesday and stands by its ballot language.

"This is legal maneuvering trying to hide the fact that Article XII allows discrimination. They want to continue down this path of dividing the city," said Justin Turner, campaign manager for the repeal.

"I think including discrimination is being honest and open with voters, instead of using code language."

The Equal Rights Not Special Rights Committee said it would seek an injunction against the ballot language in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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