Sunday, October 24, 2004

Repeal Cincinnati Article XII


The damage caused by the Cincinnati charter amendment that prohibits any law that would grant protected status to sexual orientation has been to the city's image rather than to its citizens. But that damage has been pervasive and expensive, and for those reasons we believe the amendment should be repealed.

Cincinnati became known nationwide as a city with an "anti-gay" law. The law is no such thing, but all the protestations in the world couldn't change the impression that Cincinnatians enacted the amendment out of an anti-gay bias. The negative impression caused by the passage of Article XII has cost the city millions of dollars in lost conventions and other business.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau attributes the loss of eight signed contracts worth a total of $25 million and 12 other "tentative" convention bookings worth $15 million to the enactment of Article XII. The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce claims a number of other organizations, including the American Library Association, the American Historical Association and the American Speech and Hearing and Language Association have said they will not meet in Cincinnati while the amendment is in place.

Neighboring cities such as Indianapolis, Lexington, Columbus and Cleveland do not have such laws. In some cases they have laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Convention planners in those cities do not hesitate to point out this difference to prospective customers when competing with Cincinnati for convention business, according to the Chamber, which supports the repeal of Article XII.

In addition to lost convention business, corporate human relations and relocation officers report that Article XII hinders employment recruiting in Cincinnati.

The ballot language says only that Article XII shall be null and void. Contrary to what opponents say, it would grant no special rights to anyone. It simply renders the Charter neutral on the subject.

Opponents of the repeal fear that without the prohibition the amendment contains, City Council could pass a new law granting protected status to gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals. Such an ordinance was enacted in 1992. We do not advocate such a law and in our view it would not be necessary to protect the rights of any our citizens. Our opposition to Article XII is based on the fact that it has been bad for Cincinnati because it has made people think the city is something it is not.

Article XII did not result in any reported acts of discrimination or harassment against gays or lesbians. It did, however, make a great number of people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable here. That is not Cincinnati's intent and it is not its nature. Article XII should be repealed.

The ballot language

Title: Charter Amendment - To repeal Article XII of the Charter of the City of Cincinnati, which prohibits the city from protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Text: Be it resolved by the people of Cincinnati that Article XII of the Charter of the City be repealed. This amendment to the City Charter shall in all respects be self-executing. Article XII shall be null and void and of no force and effect.

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