Press

Foreseeing defeat and acknowledging fraud, anti-gay ballot measure withdrawn in Cincinnati

Date: 
August 16, 2006

City restores nondiscrimination protections lost 14 years ago

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 — A conservative political group asked the Cincinnati Board of Elections to remove its anti-gay referendum from the November ballot today, an acknowledgment of fraud in its signature gathering and the likelihood of defeat at the polls. As a result, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be protected from discrimination for the first time since 1992.

“This sweet victory caps a 14-year struggle to restore basic nondiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Cincinnati,” said Matt Foreman, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director. “The other side cloaked itself in ‘family values’ while committing fraud. They clearly saw the writing on wall—defeat in November—and threw in the towel. The only downside is the people of Cincinnati will not have the opportunity to reject these forces of division and hate at the ballot box.”

“We won because we aggressively challenged the deceit of the right on every front,” said Gary Wright, Citizens to Restore Fairness campaign chair. “We challenged the fraud that we saw in their petitions, and we challenged the lies they tell about LGBT people by talking honestly to voters on thousands of doorsteps. If we have learned one thing in Cincinnati from our allies at the Task Force, it's that honesty with voters is our best weapon. We were well prepared to beat them at the polls, and they knew it.”

The Task Force invested heavily in the Citizens to Restore Fairness campaign that was geared up to defeat the initiative, including early financial support and the deployment of three full-time staff, including Task Force Senior Field Organizer Sarah Reece, who was asked to serve as campaign manager, three summer organizing fellows, and a campaign consultant.

“Cincinnati shows that Middle America is changing its mind about gay people,” said Foreman.  “Cincinnati shows how far we’ve come in less than twenty years.”

Background: In 1992, the City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation. A year later, voters passed Article XII, which specifically prohibited city government from treating sexual orientation as a protected class. The Citizens to Restore Fairness campaign launched a campaign to overturn Article XII and in November 2004, Cincinnati voters repealed it. 

With Article XII off the books, in March 2006, the Cincinnati City Council approved by a vote of 8-1 an ordinance adding “sexual orientation” and “transgender status” to the city's human rights laws that bar discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Almost immediately, anti-gay forces began a campaign to put an initiative on the ballot to overturn the new law and began signature gathering. They submitted petitions with just two signatures more than the required minimum. In spite of this, many believed the measure would survive any challenges because of the way Ohio’s election processes have been politicized in recent years. Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell oversees Ohio elections and was a vociferous opponent of Cincinnati’s new law.

The anti-gay referendum was withdrawn shortly after the opponents acknowledged fraud in its signature gathering.

Cincinnati joins 285 cities, counties and government organizations that provide some level of protection against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also joins 77 municipalities that offer protection for transgender people.

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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.