U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Last Remaining Anti-Gay Ballot Initiative

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Lambda urges Justices to nix Cincinnati charter amendment once and for all
September 28, 1998

(CHICAGO, September 28, 1998) -- The most decisive United States Supreme Court triumph ever for lesbian and gay civil rights should bring final defeat for Cincinnati's Issue 3, the country's last anti-gay ballot initiative, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Monday.

The High Court is likely to announce soon its response to Lambda's petition for the Court either to hear the challenge to Issue 3, Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati v. City of Cincinnati, or to overturn the anti-gay initiative without argument.

Approved in 1993, Issue 3 would amend the Cincinnati city charter to forbid any law providing basic civil rights protections from discrimination for lesbians and gay men. Since then, Lambda has been co-counsel for appellant Equality Foundation, a civil rights advocacy group that had worked to defeat the ballot initiative, and six other lesbian and gay Cincinnatians.

"It's like deja vu all over again," said Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney of Lambda's Midwest Regional Office, referring to the parallel Supreme Court battle that Lambda helped win over a Colorado state constitutional amendment in Romer v. Evans. Considered the gay community's most important legal victory to date, Romer made clear that the Constitution's equal protection clause protects gay people from discrimination by the government.

"Cincinnati cannot clone Colorado's Amendment 2 and expect it to pass constitutional muster," said Logue, who helps represent the challengers to Issue 3.

Lambda Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg, who has worked from Lambda's New York headquarters on both Equality and Romer, said, "Romer was a broad and resounding rebuke of far-right voter initiatives like Issue 3. This discrimination is unconstitutional, period, end of story."

In its 1996 Romer opinion, the Court said, "Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance." (emphasis added)

In the wake of Romer, the High Court set aside an earlier Sixth Circuit decision upholding Issue 3 and ordered the appeals court to reconsider the city charter amendment. However, the Sixth Circuit upheld Issue 3 again.

Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart said, "The recent rogue ruling that upheld Issue 3 cannot diminish the Constitution's promise of equal protection for all, including for lesbians and gay men. Homophobia cannot be made into law."

Issue 3 has never been enforced because of the five-year legal challenge by Lambda and its co-counsel, Scott Greenwood of the ACLU of Ohio, and Ohio attorneys Alphonse A. Gerhardstein and Richard Cordray.

(Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati v. City of Cincinnati, No. 97-1795)


Contact: Patricia M. Logue 312-663-4413, ext 30 Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984


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