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Almost Blue

By Steve Ramos · November 17th, 2004 · Arts Beat

Standing in the Election Day rain outside the Evanston Neighborhood Community Center might not qualify as the deciding factor for Gary Wright, chairman of the repeal-Article 12 group Citizens to Restore Fairness (CRF), or his other pro-tolerance volunteers, but it helped secure victory for a group of local liberal voters accustomed to defeat.

After months of campaigning, CRF led the repeal of the Cincinnati City Charter's Article 12, which denied gay, lesbian and bisexual residents legal protection against discrimination. It was a bold victory for the blues -- liberals who watched their anti-gay discrimination platform twisted by Republicans into attacks against civil rights and the American family.

Suddenly, values of tolerance and supporting diversity were no longer valuable. They were political hindrances. But Wright and his CRF forces proved that human rights always stand a chance when the message is taken to the people.

Nevertheless, the morning-after blues afflicting the many Cincinnati-based supporters and volunteers who worked on behalf of Sen. John Kerry stem from one key fact: Every urban voting district in Ohio voted for Kerry except Hamilton County.

The red Republican cause was helped by President George W. Bush winning four Cincinnati city wards -- Mount Washington and Sayler Park, where moral values took priority over sliding household incomes; Mount Lookout, whose affluent residents benefited from Bush tax breaks; and Covedale, whose residents were still excited over Vice President Dick Cheney's pre-Election Day stop at their beloved, down-home hangout, Price Hill Chili.

On TV, Lebanon, Ohio, teenager Ashley Faulkner became an election season celebrity for her pro-Bush ad, where she endorses Bush as a man "only interested in keeping me safe."

"He's the most powerful man in the world, and all he wants to do is make sure I'm safe," Faulkner says to the camera.

Cincinnati was the swing city in the deciding state of the most tumultuous presidential election in years. Cincinnati voters could have colored Ohio blue on the election chart. Instead, local Kerry supporters have joined up with the rest of the "next time" armies, committed to decoding the mysteries of a lost election and winning the culture wars.

In conservative Greater Cincinnati, Wright's victory for repealing Article 12 makes us almost blue, a bold victory in the continuing culture wars.

Consider what Wright had to fight against. Sharonville-based Citizens for Community Values, led by Phil Burress, received national support and plenty of outsider money to challenge the repeal of Article 12 in Cincinnati and support the statewide campaign in support of Issue 1, a ballot issue to amend the Ohio Constitution to bar same-sex marriage and keep local governments from granting legal "married" status to same-sex couples.

Moral values filled TV attack ads and billboards alongside many busy thoroughfares. Burress led the anti-repeal Equal Rights Not Special Rights campaign and reached out to African-American neighborhoods to persuade them that gays wanted to take away their past civil rights gains.

That's why Wright stood in the rain outside the Evanston Community Center and made the case with the neighborhood's voters.

The Hamilton County Republican Party didn't take a position on the repeal of Article 12, nor did leading arts organizations with the exception of small groups like Know Theatre Tribe and Women Writing For (a) Change.

But the Cincinnati business community -- corporate leaders like P & G and Federated Department Stores, businesses that benefit from strong ties with the Republican Party -- broke ranks and stood with CRF. Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken supported the repeal, too.

The morning after the election, as the cultural values debate heated up, Cincinnati became a beacon of positive change. We're no longer the only U.S. city with an anti-gay charter provision, despite the money and support poured into Burress' CCV coffers.

We're getting attention, and not for the negative reasons of the past. Cincinnati is almost blue, a step in the right direction.



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