Monday, February 3, 2003

Cranley pushes hate-crimes law

Tells those at rally to attend hearing on ordinance

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley urged about 30 people at an antihate rally Sunday to lobby other council members for their support of an expanded hate crime ordinance that prohibits harassment or violence prompted by the victim's sexual orientation.

Cranley urged his audience at Club Chica, a nightclub in Mount Airy, to attend Tuesday's 3 p.m. public hearing on the proposed ordinance at a council committee meeting.

A vote on the ordinance is scheduled for Wednesday, and Cranley said Sunday that he believes he has enough support on the nine-member council to pass it.

"It does matter that you are there," Cranley said.

"Council members can be swayed. ... I am confident that we're going to win."

The city's existing hate crimes ordinance covers crimes motivated by a person's race, color, religion or national origin. Cranley and Councilman David Crowley introduced the expanded ordinance proposal last month that would include crimes motivated by a person's sexual orientation, gender, age or disability.

They were spurred to action after the death of Gregory A. Beauchamp, a 21-year-old English Woods man, who was shot to death Dec. 31 in Over-the-Rhine by someone yelling antihomosexual slurs.

"This is an antihate rally," Dianna Brewer, the 41-year-old Northside woman who organized Sunday's event, said at the start of the meeting.

Passive violence against gays in Cincinnati has escalated to physical violence, and it's time to get people speaking out against it, she said.

If the ordinance passes, Cranley told the group, it would cover misdemeanor crimes, but not felonies like the slaying of Mr. Beauchamp. State law prohibits city council from doing that, he said.

But Cranley noted that most hate crimes against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are misdemeanors like assault, telephone harassment, menacing and vandalism.

After his speech, Cranley stayed to answer questions from the supportive audience.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., said Sunday that he plans to bring a group to Covington and Cincinnati Feb. 11 to protest ordinances dealing with protection for homosexuals.

"They're talking about adding homosexuals to protective classes in that town," Phelps said in a telephone conversation. "We vigorously oppose (expanding the ordinance)."

Phelps said he plans to picket a Covington City Commission hearing on a proposed change in a human rights ordinance that would extend housing employment protections to gay people and others. The group also will protest at Hebrew Union College because, he said, Reform Judaism recognizes same-sex marriages.

Enquirer reporter Erica Solvig contributed. E-mail

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