Lambda Criticizes Upholding of Last Anti-Gay Initiative

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Federal court rules for Cincinnati's ban on discrimination protections

Date

Date: 
10/23/1997

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday 23 October 1997
Contact: Patricia M. Logue, 312-663-4413; Peg Byron, 212-809-8585 x230, 888-987-1984 (pager)


(CHICAGO, October 23, 1997) -- A federal appeals court today upheld Cincinnati's Issue 3, the country's sole remaining anti-gay initiative that seeks to ban discrimination protections for lesbians and gay men, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, co-counsel in the case.

Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney for Lambda's Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, condemned this result. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit previously upheld Issue 3 in a 1995 ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court last year threw out that decision and ordered the appeals court to reconsider the case in light of the high court's ruling against Colorado's anti-gay amendment.

"This is a renegade decision approving a clone of the Colorado ballot measure thrown out by the Supreme Court," Logue said, referring to last year's historic ruling against that state's Amendment 2. "Upholding Issue 3 is simply indefensible," she said.

Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg, who worked on the case from Lambda's New York headquarters, said, "The Supreme Court relegated such anti-gay ballot initiatives to history's trash heap. Unfortunately, the Sixth Circuit failed to understand that."

"Issue 3 mimicked Amendment 2, which the high court demolished with its landmark Romer v. Evans ruling last year," said Lambda Legal Director Beatrice Dohrn. "Lambda, our client, and co-counsel will look closely at whether we again will appeal to the Supreme Court or to the full Sixth Circuit."

Issue 3 Background

The Cincinnati measure seeks to repeal all laws in Cincinnati forbidding discrimination against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, and it would amend the city charter to prevent lawmakers from ever passing such legislative protections. It has never taken effect because of court injunctions.

Cincinnati voters approved Issue 3 in 1993 amid a nationwide campaign by right-wing extremists to promote anti-gay bigotry and bar legal protections for gay people against discrimination. Lambda and its colleagues immediately challenged the measure in federal district court.

After a lengthy trial, the lower court rejected Issue 3 as a violation of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection, free expression, and due process for lesbians and gay men. The Sixth Circuit reversed that ruling on all grounds; that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. After its May 1996 Romer decision, the high court ordered the Sixth Circuit to re-examine its earlier validation of Issue 3.

In addition to helping defeat the Colorado anti-gay initiative, Lambda helped dash a similar measure passed in Florida's Alachua County in 1994; a state judge there struck down the northern Florida county's Amendment 1 last fall, based on Romer.

Logue and Goldberg are Lambda's attorneys on behalf of Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati in the Issue 3 challenge. Cincinnati civil rights attorney Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, who argued the case before the Sixth Circuit this past March, is also co-counsel, along with Scott Greenwood of the ACLU of Ohio and Ohio attorney Richard Cordray.

Lambda, the oldest and largest lesbian and gay legal organization, celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1998. With its national headquarters in New York, Lambda has regional offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles as well as Chicago.


(Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati v. City of Cincinnati,

Case Nos. 94-3855, 94-3973, and 94-4280)


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