Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Boycott unjustly targets P&G


Two national pro-family groups have launched an unfair boycott against Procter & Gamble products and further confused Cincinnati's muddled 11-year history with Article XII of the city charter. The boycotters falsely accuse Procter of supporting homosexual marriage and contributing money to "radical homosexual groups" whose ultimate goal is to legalize gay marriage. Procter denies it has any such goal, and neither the 1993 city charter amendment nor the attempt to repeal it, known as Issue 3 on the November ballot, mentions gay marriage.

The American Family Association and Focus on the Family should abandon their misbegotten boycott and correct misrepresentations about P&G on their Web site, pgboycott.com.

Article XII's history here is complicated enough without outside groups perhaps confusing Cincinnati's Issue 3 repeal vote with Ohio's statewide Issue 1 against gay marriage. Procter spokesman Doug Shelton said neither group contacted the company before calling for the boycott. They launched the boycott of Crest, Tide and other Procter products after prompting from Phil Burress, who leads Loveland-based Citizens for Community Values.

Even the boycotters' Web site admits Procter has not "explicitly" called for gay marriage, but they slam the company anyway.

P&G, to its credit, has warned employees that the company "will not tolerate discrimination in any form, against anyone, for any reason." The consumer goods giant also contributed $10,000 to the pro-Issue 3 group Citizens to Restore Fairness. Other companies here, including The Cincinnati Enquirer, have concluded that Article XII is bad for business, has hurt the city's image and should be repealed.

Repeal would simply revoke Article XII. It would not make homosexuals a special protected class, as did a 1992 Cincinnati human rights ordinance. The next year, reacting to that law, Cincinnati voters passed Article XII, which blocked past or future city ordinances from giving special protected status or preferential treatment to gays, lesbians or bisexuals. Since then, police report few, if any, complaints of discrimination against gays, but Article XII has left Cincinnati vulnerable to charges that it is intolerant of gays. The original campaign slogan promoting Article XII was "Equal rights, not special rights." Even if the intent was to leave every group on an equal footing and not keep adding more and more special protected classes, it didn't look "equal" to specify gays as the sole group to be excluded from preferential treatment. Gay-rights advocates say Cincinnati is the only city in the country with such a preemptive law regarding gays on its books.

Although there may not be proof that any gay here was abused because of Article XII, it has spawned persistent misunderstandings about Cincinnati, and the undeserved boycott of P&G is only the latest. Cincinnati needs to get back to a clear, defensible equilibrium in its anti-discrimination laws. The boycotters should be big enough to admit they discriminate against P&G without justification.

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