This week’s ruling by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that a Greater Cincinnati landlady violated a girl’s civil rights by posting a “whites only” sign at an apartment complex’s swimming pool is a decision that most rational people would say is just.
The Jan. 12 ruling means the commission, if it cannot reach a settlement with landlady Jamie Hein, could issue a complaint against her with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office would then represent the complainant, Michael Gunn, before an administrative law judge, who could impose penalties and punitive damages.
Gunn, who is white, filed the complaint last spring after his biracial daughter visited him at his apartment complex and tried to use the pool. She found a sign posted that read, “Public Swimming Pool, White Only.”
The girl told her father about the sign, he said, and several witnesses corroborated her account before the commission.
Although Hein told ABC News in December that the sign merely was an antique from Selma, Ala., which she received from a friend, she said in an interview with the commission’s housing enforcement director that products used by the girl in her hair made the water “cloudy.”
"I was trying to protect my assets," Hein said in the interview.
Such an attitude might seem shocking today, but it’s worth noting that Sunlite Pool at Coney Island Amusement Park didn’t become racially integrated until May 29, 1961, after a nine-year struggle — well within the lifetimes of some of CityBeat’s older readers.
But is Hein’s attitude really all that shocking or uncommon? Consider the following.
Both U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have spoken publicly against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.
Ron Paul has said the law "undermine[d] the concept of liberty" and "destroyed the principle of private property and private choices."
Rand Paul has said he dislikes portions of the civil rights law because a restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Rand Paul said in 2010.
Father and son, of course, represent the views of many Libertarians and are the darlings of the Tea Party movement.
Then there’s the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a group supposedly dedicated only to fiscal conservatism. Still, one of COAST’s leaders, Chris Finney, helped push the anti-gay charter amendment approved by Cincinnati voters in 1993.
While defending Article 12 in the 1990s, Finney said landlords shouldn’t be legally required to rent to gay or lesbian tenants if they didn’t want to do so.
During testimony in a 1994 court hearing, Finney was asked why sexual behavior should affect who can eat in a restaurant or be employed by a company. Finney replied, “Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.”
No wonder civil rights leader Bayard Rustin remarked in 1986 that, “Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new ‘niggers’ are gays.”
By the way, COAST helped launch Rand Paul’s Senate campaign in June 2009. Birds of a feather.
Thankfully, voters repealed Article 12 in 2004. But the worldview espoused by the Pauls, Finney and their ilk would leave us with a significantly different society today, if they had their way.
Nevertheless, one Greater Cincinnati politician after another tries to cozy up to COAST, in an effort to win conservative votes. Among those who associate with the group are Brad Wenstrup, Charlie Winburn, Christopher Smitherman, Chris Bortz, Chris Monzel and Phil Heimlich.
As President Grover Cleveland famously said, “A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out."