Activists trying to repeal a 1993 charter amendment that made Cincinnati the only U.S. city to ban enactment or enforcement of laws based on sexual orientation said on Monday that they are ready to go to City Hall to put the issue on the ballot.
Citizens to Restore Fairness wants to give voters the opportunity on November 2 to repeal the amendment. Religious and business leaders backing the group say the amendment is unfair to some Cincinnati citizens and makes it harder for corporations to recruit new employees because it bears a stigma of discrimination.
Activists successful in getting the amendment passed by telling voters there was no need to give gays and lesbians "special rights" are ready to defend it, spokesman Phil Burress said Monday. Sixty-two percent of the voters approved the amendment. The nation already has civil rights laws designed to fight discrimination, Burress said. "There are certain classifications with immutable characteristics which are afforded those protections, like skin color," said Burress, chairman of a coalition called Equal Rights, Not Special Rights. "A person's choice of a sex partner is not a basis for redress of discrimination claims."
Members of Citizens to Restore Fairness plan to take thousands of petition signatures to the city council clerk's office on Tuesday, said Justin Turner, the organization's campaign manager. The Hamilton County board of elections has made a preliminary determination that the group has enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, said Pamela Swafford, the board's deputy director. The clerk will verify that with the elections board before asking council to approve a resolution putting the issue on the November ballot, Turner said.
The group collected about 14,000 signatures by going door to door and talking with voters for at least the last six months, Turner said. The threshold was 6,771 signatures, 10% of votes cast in the last
Cincinnati municipal election.
The Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau says Cincinnati has lost at least $46.5 million in convention business since the amendment's passage. That includes various organizations that either canceled their written convention agreements with the bureau or dropped Cincinnati from among the
cities they were considering for conventions, bureau officials have said.