Lambda To Ohio Federal Appeals Court: Time to Strike Last Anti-Gay Initiative

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U.S. Supreme Court vacated same court's earlier ruling that upheld Cincinnati's Issue 3
March 14, 1997

(CHICAGO, March 14, 1997) Based on the most powerful court decision ever to vindicate the civil rights of lesbians and gay men, an Ohio federal appeals panel now must reject Cincinnati's anti-gay Issue 3, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Friday in anticipation of a hearing next week.

The United States Supreme Court ordered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to reconsider the constitutionality of Issue 3 in light of the high court's rejection of Colorado's virtually identical Amendment 2 with its landmark ruling in Romer v. Evans. The Supreme Court threw out the Sixth Circuit's earlier decision upholding Issue 3.

"Cincinnati, like Colorado, cannot discriminate against lesbians and gay men," said Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney for Lambda's Midwest Regional Office. Along with Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg, Logue is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Issue 3 litigation on behalf of Lambda. "This case should put an end to an ugly chapter in American history," Logue said.

Cincinnati civil rights attorney Alphonse A. Gerhardstein will present plaintiffs' argument at the March 19 hearing before a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit appeals court.

Issue 3 is the last anti-gay initiative on the books anywhere in the country, left over from vigorous state, county, and city campaigns in the early part of the decade that sought to ban civil rights laws protecting lesbians and gay men.

Romer crippled that anti-gay tactic on May 20, 1996, holding that Colorado's amendment served no legitimate purpose and simply sought to codify anti-gay sentiment, a violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause. Lambda, with the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of Colorado attorneys, was co-counsel in that case.

Lambda Legal Director Beatrice Dohrn said, "These initiatives would disable efforts to prohibit discrimination against lesbians and gay men in every aspect of life, from employment, to housing, to all kinds of business and commercial contexts. The Supreme Court has made it clear that this kind of sweeping measure is not constitutional and will not be tolerated."

Dohrn pointed to Lambda's recent victory on behalf of Florida activists over an anti-gay initiative in Alachua County, Florida, where a state court cited Romer as requiring defeat of the county's Charter Amendment 1. "Romer is knocking down anti-gay laws and policies throughout the country," she added.

Shortly after its Romer ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the Sixth Circuit to reconsider its May 1995 rejection of a lower court ruling that, in August 1994, struck down Issue 3 as a violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection, free expression, and due process for lesbians and gay men.

Passed in 1993, Issue 3 would repeal all laws forbidding discrimination against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals and would amend the city charter to prevent lawmakers from ever passing such legislative protections.

Co-counsel with Logue, Goldberg, and Gerhardstein are Scott Greenwood of the ACLU of Ohio and Ohio attorney Richard Cordray.

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

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