Effort to place Cincinnati’s HRO on ballot falls short

PRESS ADVISORY

Contact:            Phil Burress, Chairman, Equal Rights Not Special Rights

(513) 733-5775 (office); (513) 403-7441 (cell)

Effort to place Cincinnati’s Human Rights Ordinance on Ballot Falls Short

The people deserved to vote, says group’s chairman.

Equal Rights Not Special Rights (ERNSR), the organization that circulated a referendum petition to allow voters in Cincinnati to decide whether Cincinnati’s Human Rights Ordinance should be expanded to include “transgendered status” and sexual orientation as classes afforded special protection, today announced that its effort had been rendered unsuccessful due to apparent fraud by one of their paid petition circulators.

In March, Cincinnati’s City Council voted 8-1 to add “transgendered status” and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes.  To stay that law and allow citizens to vote on the measure, ERNSR had 30 days to collect 7,654 signatures of registered Cincinnati voters.  They met that deadline with 7,656 signatures, which were validated by the Hamilton County Board of Elections (BOE).

Citizens to Restore Fairness, a group funded in large part from outside organizations to prevent Cincinnatians from deciding the issue, challenged all of the signatures validated by the BOE for technical reasons, most of which ERNSR’s research determined to be bogus.

However, ERNSR’s research confirmed that 18 of the 7,656 signatures submitted were forged by one of the temporary day laborers hired to help circulate the petition, thus taking the total validated signatures under the number required by law.

“This is extremely disappointing,” said ERNSR’s Chairman, Phil Burress.  “The people of Cincinnati deserved to vote on this issue.  Due to the lack of integrity of one paid circulator, they will be prevented from doing so.  Burress has contacted the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office and encouraged investigation and prosecution of the alleged forgeries.

“Two hundred thousand people have left Cincinnati since the city’s Council first tried to equate sexual orientation with race, ethnicity, gender and other immutable characteristics that truly deserve special protection from discrimination,” said Burress.  “Last year Council tried to blame Article XII for the city’s problems and mounted a repeal effort to divert attention from their own lack of leadership and planning.  Today, where do we stand?  The crime and the blight continue.  And Council again has circumvented the will of the people, taking us back to the mid-nineties with another divisive, unjust ordinance.”

Burress said that a poll conducted by an independent polling company last week confirmed that the majority of Cincinnati citizens would have voted against treating “transgendered status” and sexual orientation as a protected class with special rights. (See attached copy.)

That poll also demonstrated that 67 percent of Cincinnatians do not believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation or “transgendered status” is a problem in Cincinnati

Said Burress, “It is particularly troublesome that Council would grant special rights for ‘transgendered status,’ when 90 percent of the people polled do not understand the term.  The fact that a person is confused about his/her gender and can’t decide how to dress doesn’t entitle that person to special protection in matters of employment and housing.  And the fact that our Council has given such persons special rights speaks volumes about the city’s problems.”

“Everyone knows that this is a ‘feel-good’ ordinance, more symbolic than practical.  Where such ordinances exist in other cities, no claims of discrimination have been proven.  The danger lies in the potential for reverse discrimination.  If City Council attempts to use this ordinance – as similar ordinances have been used in other cities – to discriminate against organizations such the Boy Scouts, we will move forward immediately with a campaign to change the City Charter again.”

“This much has been decided,” Burress concluded.  “Federal Courts have held that Cincinnati voters do have the right to repeal such ordinances and to tell Council that they cannot pass ordinances granting special rights based on sexual orientation or ‘transgendered status.’  And in 2004 Ohioans voted overwhelmingly to pass a Marriage Protection Amendment to our state’s Constitution.  That Amendment restricts all city councils in Ohio from passing certain types of special rights ordinances, such as domestic partnership benefits, that give the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.”