Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Stonewall: Gay rights would aid 2012 effort

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Leaders of Stonewall Cincinnati, the city's largest gay rights organization, say they don't want to derail the effort to bring the 2012 Olympic games here, just remove a roadblock — the city's ban on gay rights laws.

        “The city is not going to have a viable bid until this law is repealed,” Stonewall Executive Director Doreen Cudnik said at a news conference Tuesday. She was joined by representatives of Citizens to Renew Fairness, a group pushing for the repeal of Issue 3, the charter amendment passed by Cincinnati voters in 1993 barring the city from offering anti-discrimination protection to gays and lesbians.

        The Stonewall news conference came at the same time that representatives of the United States Olympic Committee are touring Cincinnati and surrounding cities to evaluate the city's bid for the 2012 Olympic games.

        Many believe that Cincinnati's specific prohibition on laws protecting gay and lesbian rights will hurt its chances in the competition. None of the other seven cities bidding to be the U.S. entry in the worldwide competition has such a law.

        Laws protecting gay rights in Cincinnati have been illegal since 1993, when 62 percent of voters voted for Issue 3. The issue stripped protections for gays and lesbians out of the city's human rights ordinance and banned any future laws granting protections based on sexual orientation.

        Last year, the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that Issue 3 had cost the city $64 million in lost convention business. Supporters of Issue 3 dispute that.

        The only way to repeal Issue 3 is by putting a charter amendment on the ballot.

        Six of nine City Council members could do that, but even opponents of the law say it is unlikely.

        Ultimately, said the Rev. Harold Porter, co-chairman of Citizens to Renew Fairness, it will probably take a petition initiative to get the issue on the ballot.

        The National Conference for Community and Justice has launched a study to determine whether there is public support for a repeal of Issue 3. Downtown Cincinnati Inc. recently dropped its support for that study after being questioned by City Council members opposed to repeal.

        Meanwhile, Ms. Cudnik said, Stonewall and other groups supporting gay rights plan to step up a public campaign to build support for repeal.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who opposed Issue 3 while a member of City Council, said the fact that the 2008 Olympics were awarded to Beijing should not stop local Olympics organizers from working to repeal the measure.

        “If we are not willing to embrace the Olympic ideal of tolerance and fairness, then we ought not be making the effort to bring the Olympics here,” Mr. Portune said.


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