Sunday, October 17, 2004

Calls refer to homosexual rights

By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer

The conservative activists fighting to keep an anti-gay rights provision in Cincinnati's charter are contacting Greater Cincinnati households with what gay-rights supporters call "misleading push polls."

The computerized calls from Virginia, which began Thursday, use a male voice to ask whether the respondent will participate in a 45-second survey. Respondents are then asked whether they plan to vote and whether they support "special rights for homosexuals."

Phil Burress, the campaign's chief strategist, confirmed that his campaign is in the field with a "poll-slash-survey" that serves several purposes.

"There's a strategy behind what we're doing. It's incredibly deep," he said. "Technology is wonderful."

Burress said the calls were only part of a media strategy that includes billboards, leaflets and radio and television ads.

Callers who stay on the line do hear an announcement that the call was paid for by the Equal Rights Not Special Rights campaign. But it does not mention Issue 3, the Nov. 2 ballot issue that will decide whether Cincinnati repeals Article XII. Repealing the 1993 charter amendment would clear the way for Cincinnati City Council to pass a gay rights ordinance.

The repeal campaign blasted the calls.

"Everybody in politics knows this is just a sleazy and unethical political trick," said Justin Turner, manager for the Campaign to Repeal Article XII. "I certainly think the people of Cincinnati will see what it is. It's a desperate attempt to mislead voters."

Turner said his campaign has 27 phone lines - all staffed by local volunteers - at its Northside phone bank.

Ellen Dunsker of Wyoming got one of the anti-Issue 3 phone calls Thursday night. It asked her if she planned to vote, and whether she believed in "special rights for homosexuals," she said.

"I said it was an unfair question. I believe in equal rights for everybody, and the computer didn't want to hear that," she said. "Finally it just hung up on me."


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