Challenge to Cincinnati's hate-crimes law dismissed
December 24 2003 12:00 AM ET
Gay rights activists in Cincinnati hailed a judge's decision on Monday to dismiss a challenge to the city's newly expanded hate-crimes law. Filed by three men last April, including an antigay activist and a state lawmaker, the lawsuit sought to overturn the law passed by Cincinnati officials in February. It amended an existing law--which already covered offenses motivated by a person's race, color, religion, or national origin--to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation, age, disability, and gender. According to The Cincinnati Post, opponents said the expanded ordinance violated Issue 3, the city's ban on enacting or enforcing any measure that gives "minority or preferential status, quota preference, or other preferential treatment" to people asserting gay, lesbian, or bisexual status. Issue 3, a charter amendment, was approved by voters in 1993.
In his ruling, Hamilton County common pleas judge Norbert A. Nadel didn't address Issue 3. Rather, Nadel stated that the suit was deficient on other legal points. Specifically, Nadel ruled that plaintiffs didn't allege that they were subject to enforcement of the law or that it had been enforced against
anyone. Also, the court doesn't have the jurisdiction to issue advisory opinions, and the lawsuit doesn't establish the plaintiffs' standing to establish the court's jurisdiction over the matter, the judge said. "This decision seems to leave plaintiffs without a remedy to litigate this matter on the merits," Nadel's ruling states. "However, in the opinion of this court, the law of Ohio at this time dictates this
City council member John Cranley, who cosponsored the law, hailed the judge's ruling. "This is a great victory for this city and for creating an atmosphere of tolerance," Cranley told the Post. "For me, this is about standing up for the dignity of all human life." The council voted 7-2 to expand the hate-crimes law, with the group's two Republican members opposed. Cranley and councilman David Crowley, who introduced the proposal, said they were prompted by the New Year's Eve shooting death of Gregory Beauchamp. Beauchamp, 21, was killed on West Liberty Street while walking with three friends to a dance club. The shooter reportedly yelled antigay slurs at the group. A grassroots group, Citizens to Restore Fairness, is mounting a petition drive in an attempt to repeal Issue 3 next year.