Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

City voters repeal amendment on gay rights

By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

A measure clearing the way for Cincinnati City Council to pass a law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination passed Tuesday.

Issue 3, which would repeal Article XII of the city's charter, passed 54 percent to 46 percent.

The lead held steady through the day. The final vote was 65,082 to 55,934.

The committee in favor of Issue 3 - the Citizens to Restore Fairness - says Article XII needed to be repealed because it does not protect gays and lesbians from discrimination - and they could lose their jobs or be denied housing because they are gay.

Those opposed, the Equal Rights Not Special Rights Campaign, argued that the charter amendment forbids enactment of laws that give special rights to people simply because they identify themselves as homosexual, lesbian or bisexual.

Gay rights advocates waged a yearlong campaign to repeal Article XII. They got enough signatures on the ballot to force the vote.

"Regardless of the outcome, it is obvious Cincinnati has come together and that is a fantastic thing," Justin Turner, campaign manager for Citizens to Restore Fairness said before vote counts were final.

Turner said the campaign dispatched nearly 1,000 volunteers to the polls to pass out literature and make sure voters had a clear understanding of the issue.

John Burgin, 31, of Avondale, also voted against repealing the charter amendment.

"I basically don't believe they should have special rights," Burgin said. "As long as they have equal rights, that is fine with me. But no special rights."

Vickie Copley, 50 of Mt. Adams, said she voted to repeal Article XII "because there should be no discrimination against anyone."

Melissa Johnston, 35, of Mt. Adams, said she voted for Issue 3 and against Ohio's constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

"I don't have a problem with it," Johnston said. "If two people love each other that's all that matters. They should have the same rights as everybody else."

In 1992, Council adopted a human rights ordinance that prohibited discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation on the basis of "race, gender, age, color, religion, disability status, sexual orientation, marital status, or ethnic, national or Appalachian regional origin."

The next year, opponents forced a vote on a charter amendment that would delete sexual orientation from the law and prohibit City Council from ever passing a gay rights law. That amendment passed and became Article XII.

In 1995 City Council voted to remove "sexual orientation from the ordinance."

Those on both sides of the issue said they were confident of a win Tuesday.

Phil Burress, president of the Equal Rights Not Special Rights Campaign, said they had dispatched more than 300 people across the city to monitor the polls. Burress said many voters seemed to be confused about what voting "yes" meant and what voting "no" meant.

Councilman Sam Malone, who chairs the campaign against the repeal of Article XII, predicted that history would repeat itself.

"The democratic process is all about giving people a chance to have their say," said Malone. "When you allow the process to take its course I think everybody wins regardless of the outcome."

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com