Sunday, July 15, 2001

Boycotts have long, mixed history

Gay issue has kept some groups away

By Emily Biuso
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Though there has been a flurry of recent calls for boycotts, protesting through absence has long been a tactic of civil objection in American cities, including Cincinnati.

        In October 1998, Stonewall Cincinnati, a gay rights group, issued a position statement just short of calling for a boycott of the city by organizations looking to hold conventions downtown.

        The statement was in response to Issue 3, the 1993 city charter amendment that barred Cincinnati from providing “protected status or preferential treatment” to people of homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation. Stonewall's statement called on national groups to consider civil rights when planning conventions.

        “We're walking the fine line between boycotts and encouraging people to think for themselves,” said Doreen Cudnik, executive director of Stonewall Cincinnati.

        Stonewall stopped short of invoking a boycott because of its working relationships with local businesses, Ms. Cudnik said. But with the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau estimating that the city has lost $63.7 million in business because of gay- friendly organizations choosing not to visit the city, Ms. Cudnik said Stonewall's statement has been successful.

        Groups that chose not to hold conferences in the city because of Issue 3 include the National Flight Attendants' Union and the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, Ms. Cudnik said.

        The statement has succeeded because people and businesses are trying to be more gay-friendly, Ms. Cudnik said.

        “With people's consciences, you don't have to call a boycott,” she said.

        Boycotts have historically been a common form of civil protest but they're not always effective, said Roger Daniels, a University of Cincinnati history professor.

        “Most boycotts have not been terribly successful. They've been limited,” Professor Daniels said. Although he said, “All of these things have some impact.”

        The Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott of 1956, when blacks didn't ride city buses in protest of discriminatory policies, was effective in part because its aim was not the entire city, Professor Daniels said.

        “The best kind of target is a particular interest that can be identified,” he said.

        One prominent city boycott occurred in Chicago, where religious and academic groups did not visit because of the city's tumultuous 1968 Democratic convention, where police beat protesters, Professor Daniels said.

        Many recent boycotts have targeted states, including ones in Colorado in 1993, which protests the state's Amendment 2, an anti-gay-rights law; Arizona from 1987 to 1992, because the state did not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday; and South Carolina in 1999, in response to the statehouse flying the Confederate battle flag.


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