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Unintended Consequences

By Stephanie Dunlap · November 3rd, 2004 · All The News That Fits
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: Cincinnati City Councilman Sam Malone's invective against Issue 3 during an Oct. 23 candidates' breakfast at New Hope Baptist Church outraged Barbara Chin.

"He was really spewing some incredible rhetoric," Chin says. "He used the line, 'There are no gay ghettos' at least 10 times. (Malone said) they shouldn't be telling anyone they're gay, so if they kept their mouth shut, basically, there would be no opportunity (for discrimination). Unlike him, being a man of color, as soon as people see him they can tell immediately. Using that logic."

Chin, former owner of Shanghai Mama's restaurant, went to City Hall Oct. 27 to set Malone straight during the public forum that precedes city council meetings. The forum ostensibly provides citizens the opportunity to publicly address the elected officials who publicly address them all the time.

A first-term council member, Malone is chair of Equal Rights No Special Rights, a group funded entirely by Citizens for Community Values (see "Sex.Lies and Values," issue of Oct. 27-Nov. 2). Among other things, the so-called Equal Rights campaign distributed yard signs with the slogan, "Save Civil Rights and Marriage/No on 3."

"After hearing you speak publicly on Saturday morning before a group of 200 African Americans, I realized that you are still confused about this issue," Chin told Malone, reading from a statement she'd prepared.

"A vote 'yes' on issue 3 is a vote for civil rights. Issue 3 has nothing to do with gay marriage. The yard signs you are personally distributing in the African-American community are unconscionably inaccurate and either a concerted effort to confuse this issue as much as possible or unbelievably ignorant."

Mayor Charlie Luken interrupted her.

"You will refrain from personal attacks," he said.

Chin recomposed herself and went on.

"In the future, when you spread false and misleading information that includes cultural bigotry, please make sure that you are doing so in your name only or, better yet, identify yourself as a politician with a side job that brings in cash and campaign support for your future election bids. Shame on you, Mr. Malone -- "

Again Luken interrupted her.

"All right, that's enough," he said, then sent her to her seat.

Luken then allowed Malone to respond.

"I never disrespected anyone's exercise of their sexual orientation," Malone said, arguing again that protecting homosexuals from discrimination infringes on civil rights for African Americans.

Chin calls Luken's decision to cut her off "unwise." Council rules forbid the use of personal attacks during council meetings, but she hadn't broken the rules, Chin says.

"It was not a personal attack and, if you look at my words, I did not call him ignorant," she says. "I said the yard signs (were ignorant). I looked back at my speech. It was strongly worded, but we have a right to confront our public officials on their very public behavior. I think that every one of our citizens should feel welcome to come to City Hall and have their lousy two minutes to speak publicly."

Council allows citizens to speak for only two minutes each, and the public input session is only 30 minutes long. It was inappropriate for Malone to use that time, Chin says.

"(It) then just provided him the vehicle to sit up in city chambers and spew his rhetoric against Issue 3," she says. "That certainly is not what I intended to happen."

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