Lambda to U.S. Supreme Court: Bury Cincinnati's Anti-Gay Initiative

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Case Returns to High Court after Court of Appeals Refuses To Follow Romer v. Evans
May 4, 1998

(CHICAGO, May 4, 1998) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund petitioned the United States Supreme Court today to strike down Cincinnati's city charter amendment banning discrimination protections for lesbians and gay men.

Known as Issue 3, the law was approved by voters in 1993 to stop Cincinnati from giving any discrimination protection, under any circumstances, to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. Issue 3 has never been put in force because of the five-year legal challenge by Lambda and its co-counsel on behalf of lesbian and gay Cincinnatians.

"It is time for the Supreme Court to bury this despicable anti-gay law," said Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney for Lambda's Midwest Regional Office. "Cincinnati cannot make gay people second-class citizens any more than Colorado can," she said, referring to a state effort nearly identical to Cincinnati's, which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.

Lambda also was co-counsel in that case, Romer v. Evans, in which the Supreme Court toppled Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2, the greatest victory ever for lesbian and gay civil rights.

Shortly after deciding Romer, the high court signaled its disagreement with a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld Issue 3. The Supreme Court set that ruling aside and ordered the case reconsidered in light of Romer. On remand, however, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit insisted that Romer's central holding "had no pertinence" to Issue 3 and upheld Cincinnati's law. The full Sixth Circuit recently declined to review that ruling, although six of its judges dissented.

"The Cincinnati amendment is a mirror image of Colorado's failed measure. The appeals court decision drew distinctions without a difference when it upheld Issue 3," said Lambda Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg from New York. "The Supreme Court explicitly said that Romer applies to government at every level," she noted.

Said Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart, "The appeals court decision sticks out like a sore thumb against the High Court's rejection of such broad, baseless, anti-gay discrimination. Cincinnati must understand that homophobia cannot be made into law."

The Supreme Court petition for certiorari, asking the Court to review the decision below, comes after repeated battles in the Sixth Circuit court. These battles began after the Sixth Circuit overturned a 1994 federal district court ruling striking down the initiative.

Logue and Goldberg are Lambda's attorneys on behalf of Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. Co-counsel are Cincinnati civil rights attorney Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, along with Scott Greenwood of the ACLU of Ohio, and Ohio attorney Richard Cordray.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Lambda is the oldest and largest lesbian and gay legal organization. With its national headquarters in New York, Lambda has regional offices in Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

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


Contact: Patricia Logue 312-663-4413; Suzanne Goldberg 212-809-8585; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 pager


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