Originally published on Advocate.com February 10 2004 1:00 AM ET
Activists said Monday that they have gathered enough petition signatures to ask voters in November to repeal a 1993 charter amendment that made Cincinnati the only U.S. city to ban enactment or enforcement of gay rights laws. Leaders of a group called Citizens to Restore Fairness said the charter
amendment unfairly singles out gay people and keeps them from seeking legal protection against discrimination. Laws are needed to protect people from being fired, denied housing, or refused
service in a restaurant or store because they are gay, said the group, which plans to submit signatures for certification before the summer deadline.
The coalition that drafted the amendment, approved by 62% of voters, said it will fight any repeal effort. Phil Burress, chairman of the group--called Equal Rights, Not Special Rights--said civil rights laws already forbid discrimination, adding that gay people shouldn't be entitled to additional, special protections.
Last week Mayor Charlie Luken called on voters to repeal the amendment. Activists say the amendment even forbids gay people to lobby city officials for laws on their behalf. Tourism officials say the charter amendment has cost Cincinnati more than $64 million in business since 1993 because organizations concerned that the city is unfriendly to gays have held their conventions elsewhere.