US Supreme Court Strikes Down Cincinnati’s Issue 3 in First Case Using Landmark Romer V. Evans

June 17, 1996

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled against Cincinnati's Issue 3. The ruling was the first such case decided by applying the landmark case Romer v. Evans, the high court's May ruling overturning Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2. The Cincinnati decision was 6 to 3, with Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Souter, Breyer and O'Connor, Stevens, ruling to overturn a lower court decision which had held Issue 3 as constitutional, and Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justices Scalia and Thomas dissenting.

Issue 3, which never took effect after being passed by Cincinnati voters in 1993, would have amended the Cincinnati city charter to forbid protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and prohibit the passage of any such protection in the future. Today's action sends the case back to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, who must conform their ruling to Romer v. Evans, which guarantees the Constitution's equal protection for lesbians and gay men.

The following statement is attributable to Melinda Paras, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) executive director. NGLTF is the nation's oldest gay and lesbian civil rights organization.

The United States Supreme Court decision today on Cincinnati's Issue 3 is a victory for all who believe in basic equal rights and the fundamental principle that all Americans deserve to live free from discrimination. While we will not know the full implication of the Supreme Court decision until the lower court's revised ruling, clearly the high court's decision on Amendment 2 has taken the wind out of Issue 3's sails.

We are making progress toward ending intolerance and educating America about who we really are. At the same time we know our battle is not over. Religious political extremists will not stop until they have advanced their broader, anti- democratic, repressive agenda. An agenda that rolls back civil rights for people of color; scapegoats gays, immigrants and others for our country's social and economic problems; and denies women constitutionally protected reproductive freedom. We must remain vigilant and defend against what surely will be a backlash. With today's ruling, we are one important step closer to attaining our dream of a more compassionate and fair society.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is a progressive organization that has supported grassroots organizing and pioneered in national advocacy since 1973. Since its inception, NGLTF has been at the forefront of virtually every major initiative for lesbian and gay rights. In all its efforts, NGLTF helps to strengthen the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement at the state level while connecting these activities to a national vision for change.


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.