CityBeat Blogs - LGBT Issues http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-80.html <![CDATA[Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center to Close Doors]]>

In two days, the physical space that's housed Cincinnati's Gay and Lesbian Community Center for the past 20 years will be vacant, but the organization won't disappear entirely.

Instead, the Center will become a completely virtual informational resource for the region's LGBT community and act as a funding resource for other Cincinnati organizations.

The Center could not be immediately reached for comment on the closure.

A letter from the board of directors sent out on Oct. 28 announced that the decision to close was based on a need to "evolve with the times." The letter states that the organization will continue to answer emails and voicemails and maintain its popular annual fundraiser, Pride Night at Kings Island, and that the board is working on selecting a public location to hold annual meetings. 

Pride Night at Kings Island, which has consistently been the Center's most profitable and popular fundraising effort, brought out record crowds this year.

The private, nonprofit volunteer-run foundation, which has been located in Northside for the past 20 years, uses its profits to provide grant to other Cincinnati-area LGBT groups. The organization's first grant for 2014 will provide Cincinnati Pride with $5,000 to expand promotions for Cincinnati Gay Pride on May 31, 2014, and for the city's celebration of Pride Month, which runs through June.



]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> CityBeat’s full Election Issue is in stands now. Check out our feature stories on three remarkable City Council challengers: Mike Moroski, Michelle Dillingham and Greg Landsman. Find the rest of our election coverage, along with our endorsements, here.

Atheist marriages may last longer than Christian ones. Research shows that divorce rates are highest among Baptists and nondenominational Christians, while more “theologically liberal” Christians like Methodists enjoy lower rates. The findings showed that Atheist marriages held the lowest divorce rates. 

A group of Westwood residents held an event Wednesday at Westwood Town Hall in response to Westwood resident Jim Kiefer’s racist Facebook post directed at Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. The residents also created a change.org petition to dispel negative perceptions about the neighborhood. “For too long, the largest neighborhood in our great City has been publicly identified by the negative statements of a few disgruntled, racially insensitive and regressive individuals,” reads the petition. 

Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook wall that read: “For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati (sic).... Evette (sic) getto (sic) Simpson!” 

According to Simpson, Kiefer went on a racist tirade against her in June, when he told her not to return to the West Side of Cincinnati.

Feeling bummed by this gloomy weather? Watch this photographer's stunning time-lapse video compiled from about 10,000 photos he took during a road trip across the country and feel better. 



Councilman Wendell Young led a motion signed on Oct. 30 that asks the city administration to allocate $2 million to address racial disparities in Cincinnati, including disproportionate infant mortality rates, unemployment rates and statistics that cite the city’s black population, which make up nearly half of the city’s residents, hold only 1 percent the area’s of economic worth.

Dogs' tail-wagging could have deeper meaning than we thought: Researchers have concluded that the direction in which dogs wag their tails expresses their emotional state. Left-side tail wagging indicates anxiety, while right-side tail wagging is a stronger symbol of companionship.

The Pacific Ocean warms 15 times faster than it used to. That helps explain why the average global surface-air temperatures have been warming at a slower rate than projected, but scientists aren't sure what kind of impact the warming has on ocean life yet.

The chair of Jelly Belly, Herman Rowland, Sr., donated $5,000 to an anti-LGBT conservative efforts “Privacy for All Students” initiative to overturn California’s new School Success and Opportunity Act, which protects the rights of transgender students to participate in school activities. 

Montgomery Inn has sold 30 million bottles of barbecue sauce. 

Here’s a video of a porcupine making really hilarious noises while eating a pumpkin:



Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day (Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
Main: @CityBeatCincy
News: @CityBeat_News
Music: @CityBeatMusic
German Lopez: @germanrlopez

]]>
<![CDATA[Seelbach: I'll Pay $1,200 to Dismiss COAST Lawsuit]]>

Today's an expensive day for Councilman Chris Seelbach.

That's because Seelbach is writing a check today for  $1,218.59 to the city of Cincinnati to get local hyper-conservative "watchdog" group COAST to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., to accept an award for instigating positive change was an unlawful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

As a refresher, we're talking about the trip when Seelbach was one of 10 community leaders around the nation selected to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his accomplishments in protecting the city's LGBT community — particularly through his efforts to extend equal partner health insurance to all city employees, create an LGBT liaison in the city's fire and police departments and requiring anyone accepting city funding to follow a non-discrimination policy a national recognition of championing Cincinnati's progression toward social justice in the past few years.

In an email from his campaign, he says that the city's law department wants to move forward with the lawsuit because the allegations are so frivolous, but Seelbach decided to just use his own personal money to prevent the city from having to spend close to $30,000 of the same taxpayer money COAST is complaining about to prove that they're wrong.

On Aug. 28, Chris Finney, chief crusader at COAST, sent a letter to the office of the city solicitor alleging that the city had committed a "misapplication of corporate funds" by sponsoring Chris Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., complaining that Seelbach and his staffers "upgraded" their hotel rooms.

Curp says that the rooms weren't only never upgraded — Seelbach and his staffers shared rooms — but that the councilman didn't even request reimbursement for several other eligible expense, like parking, meals and taxi fares — and flew out of Louisville, Ky., to take advantage of cheaper airfare.

In City Solicitor John Curp's five-page response to Finney, he refutes every claim made by COAST and ends the letter by citing an Ohio Supreme Court case that effectively ruled that private citizens (like Chris Finney and all the other COASTers) constantly contesting official acts and expenditures doesn't benefit the city and should only be allowed when it could cause serious public injury if ignored. Here's Curp's full response:

Solicitor Response - Champion of Change by chrisseelbach1



In Seelbach's campaign email, he chocks the lawsuit up to another one of COAST's attacks to continue their thinly veiled bigotry-fueled crusade against Seelbach and Cincinnati's LGBT community as a whole. "You can bet they never would have asked a City Councilmember to pay for a trip to the White House to celebrate Cincinnati if it weren't for the connection to Harvey Milk and the LGBT community."

]]>
<![CDATA[State Rep. John Becker Is a Sore Loser]]> When my brother and I were little kids, we used to play board games all the time, and because I was older and smarter I usually won. Back in those days, my little bro didn’t really understand the concept of sportsmanship and he would sometimes defiantly flip over the entire Stratego board when I started to win a game and get really close to finding his flag, and then he’d storm off and say I cheated (I didn’t cheat, Dylan!). 

Republican Rep. John Becker is pretty upset that a terminally ill gay man has earned the right to die in peace, and now it’s become a very real possibility that other gay Ohioans might also get to die (and live) in peace. And, just like my brother, he’s kind of trying to ruin the game for everyone just because he’s losing.

In July, Judge Timothy Black heard the case of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, a long-term gay couple who flew to Maryland to marry at the beginning of the month because Arthur is terminally ill, in hospice care, and not expected to live much longer.  

Obergefell and Arthur sued the state of Ohio for discrimination in not recognizing their out-of-state gay marriage, legal and recognized in Maryland, when other gay couples residing in states recognizing same-sex marriages and subsequently moved to Ohio would have their marriages treated as valid. And because Arthur is terminally ill, it's just as much for the emotional connection as it is for any kind of economic benefit.

Here's what Obergefell wrote in his original complaint (grab a tissue):

“Our legacy as a married couple is very important to John and me… in two or more generations our descendants will not know who we are. Married couples, often through research based on death records, have recognition for their special status forever. I want my descendants generations from now who research their history to learn that I loved and married John and that he loved and married me. They will know that they had gay ancestor who was proud and strong and in love.”

In his ruling, Black called the case “not complicated,” explaining that he’d allow the marriage to be legalized on Arthur’s death certificate because it was likely a constitutional violation that the state of Ohio treated lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages differently than lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages. 

In September, he ruled to allow the marriage of another gay couple — David Michener and William Herbert Ives — after Ives unexpectedly passed away in late August. Although these aren't (yet) blanket rulings, they're being interpreted as monumental victories for supporters of marriage equality.

Becker, then, decided to do the political equivalent of my brother running to my mom and accusing me of cheating; he wrote U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup and called for Black to be impeached for “malfeasance and abuse of power,” which apparently made him really concerned about the “federal government’s ever growing propensity to violate state sovereignty.” 

Unfortunately, though, U.S. District Court judges are appointed for life, so since Becker’s claims against Judge Black are totally unfounded, Black is free to continue to anger Becker and other people who don't approve of equality for gay couples.

Alphonse Gerhardstein, the attorney for both couples, calls Becker's response to the rulings "bullying."

"Federal judges are granted tenure for life for a reason. It's their job to enforce core principles even when the majority disagrees," he says. "Look at the Dred Scott case. I think most people would agree that's the worst case decision ever made by a judge, and even he didn't get impeached." (In case you forget, he's talking about Dred Scott v. Sandford, the landmark 1857 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled black people weren't citizens.)

Things that actually can get a judge impeached, says Gerhardstein, are offenses like having sex with a criminal defendant or taking bribes. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the court added licensed funeral director Robert Grunn, who is responsible for registering deaths and providing personal information to the state on what should go on a death certificate, to the list of plaintiffs. Grunn currently serves same-sex couples when he signs death certificates, says the lawsuit, including those with marriages recognized outside the state of Ohio. The lawsuit, if successful, could require all funeral directors to recognize gay clients as married on death certificates if they were legally married in a different state.

Gerhardstein also says since accepting Arthur and Obergefell's case, he and his colleagues have received inquiries from between 30 to 50 other gay couples seeking legal recognitions of their out-of-state marriages. For now, he says, he and his firm are concentrating on cases specifically involving recognizing same-sex marriages on death certificates, although this litigation could (and probably will) lead to other blanket rulings on how same-sex marriages are recognized in Ohio. 

Another hearing with Judge Black is scheduled for Dec. 18.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The federal government announced yesterday that same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal tax and Medicare purposes even if the marriage is considered illegal in the state where the couple resides. That means gay Ohioans could get married in a state where it’s legal, such as Massachusetts or California, and have their marriages recognized by the federal government even if the couple lives in Ohio. The change does not apply to Social Security, which will continue basing benefits on where couples live, not where they got married. The changes also won’t apply to taxes at the local and state level until those governments legalize same-sex marriage for themselves. Freedom Ohio is currently working to get same-sex marriage on Ohio’s ballot in 2014, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday appointed the panel that will review the state’s facial recognition program. It includes Democrats, Republicans, judges, law enforcement and prosecutors, but not civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, that asked to be involved. Shortly after the program was formally unveiled on Monday, the ACLU asked DeWine to shut it down until proper protocols are put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.

A Republican state senator is introducing legislation that would attach drug testing to welfare benefits in Ohio, but similar measures have failed in other states. Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties would be required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire to using drugs in the past six months. In Utah, the state government spent more than $30,000 screening welfare applicants, but only 12 people tested positive, according to Deseret News. The policy has also faced legal troubles, particularly in Florida, but since the Ohio proposal only requires drug testing after information is solicited through a questionnaire, it’s unclear whether privacy concerns will hold up in court.

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, is speaking out against a $300 million light rail project that would run from downtown Cincinnati to Milford, Ohio. Hartmann says he’s concerned ridership numbers will be low and costs will be too high. County commissioners are involved with the project through the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District.

Ex-Councilman John Cranley continues to outraise and outspend Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race. But money rarely matters in political campaigns, according to research and Cincinnati’s mayoral history.

The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is asking the city solicitor to force Councilman Chris Seelbach to repay the city for his trip to Washington, D.C., where Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, received the White House’s Champion of Change Award. Seelbach says the trip served a public purpose; mainly, the trip allowed him and his staff to spend time with other award recipients to learn how to better deal with LGBT issues.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble announced it backs legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio currently has no such law.

Ohio’s prison population is growing again, which has spurred further calls from state officials to continue pursuing sentencing reform. The state government in 2012 passed some reform that weakened sentences and made it easier for convicts to have their records expunged, but Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr says more needs to be done.

Ohio gun owners are gathering in Columbus today to call on Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to support comprehensive background checks for firearms, according to a press release from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Polling data released by the group found 83 percent of Ohioans support comprehensive background checks.

A Democratic state representative is asking Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to explain why he’s accused of forcing the Ohio EPA’s top water watchdog to resign, but Kasich’s people don’t seem to be taking the concern too seriously. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded to the demands by telling The Columbus Dispatch, “If she had her way, we’d all be living on a collective farm cooking organic quinoa over a dung fire. So I think we’ll take her views in context.” George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s surface-water division, was allegedly asked to step down by Kasich after Elmaraghy claimed Ohio coal companies want water-pollution permits “that may have a negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.” Republican lawmakers are notoriously friendly with oil, gas and coal companies.

Two more are being investigated by the Hamilton County Board of Elections for illegally voting in Ohio while living in other states.

Gas prices are rising in time for Labor Day weekend, but they should be cheaper than last year.

The famous “47 percent” is now down to 43 percent. The Tax Policy Center says the change is driven by the recovering economy, rising incomes and cuts to federal assistance programs.

Antarctica appears to be bleeding in a phenomenon that shows life can exist without sunlight or oxygen.

Popular Science has an explainer for cruise missiles, the weapon that soon may be deployed against Syria.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

A federal judge on Tuesday extended the temporary restraining order recognizing a gay couple’s marriage in Ohio. As CityBeat covered here, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is expected to die soon, sued local and state officials hoping to have their Maryland marriage acknowledged by Ohio before Arthur’s death certificate was issued. Judge Timothy Black sided with the couple, and he’s now extended the temporary restraining order until December, which should provide enough time for Arthur’s expected death and the remaining legal battle. The judge has made it clear that the order only applies to Obergefell and Arthur.

Ohio could spend less on Medicaid if it expands eligibility for the program, according to a new analysis from Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But the expansion would have to come with cost controls that cap spending growth at 3.5 percent to 4 percent, as opposed to the current rate of 7.2 percent. Still, the analysis shows that policies including an expansion can save the state money. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal government is asking states to expand Medicaid to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government would pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. Typically, the federal government pays for about 60 percent of Medicaid in Ohio.

A Sycamore Township man died yesterday after Hamilton County deputies used a Taser on him during a brief struggle. Deputies found Gary Roell, 59, half-clothed and smashing windows right before they took him into custody. It’s unclear how many times the Taser was used or whether the Taser was the direct cause of death. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the deputies followed protocol, given the violent actions carried out by Roell, who punched a deputy in the face during the confrontation. Still, some groups have been asking police departments around the country to change protocol altogether. A 2012 report from Amnesty International found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in jail.

The 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll found that higher-income Ohio adults reported better health than those with lower incomes. In 2013, 59 percent of Ohio adults above 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household, reported “excellent” or “very good” health, compared to only 26 percent of those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $11,490 for a single-person household. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati is pointing to the results as just one other way life is more difficult for low-income Ohioans. The group intends to get at least 70 percent of the community to report “excellent” or “very good” health by 2020. Only about 53 percent of adults in southwest Ohio currently report such health, according to the Ohio Health Issues Poll.

Hamilton County is still offering its free recycling program for electronic equipment, including computers and televisions, until noon on Oct. 26.

The Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) today sent out a warning to college students asking them to watch out for drugged drinks. OIU provided four safety tips: Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be drugged, students shouldn’t leave a drink laying around or turn their backs on it, they shouldn’t accept drinks from strangers or someone they don’t trust, and students should watch their friends’ drinks and act if they see anything suspicious. The Ohio Incident Based Reporting System (OIBRS) shows there were 14 incidents of forcible rape with drug as a weapon in 2012, but not all Ohio police departments report to OIBRS, so the numbers are likely understated.

A developer is planning to build 20 apartments in the mostly vacant Schwartz office building on Main Street, along the streetcar’s planned route.

Developers are still working on building apartments above the Fountain Place retail complex, as announced nine months ago.

Another steakhouse is opening in downtown Cincinnati.

Delta is now offering direct flights from Cincinnati to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Jungle Jim’s sold a $1 million Mega Millions ticket.

Watch lab-grown heart tissue beat on its own here.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff ]]>

Ohio death row inmate Billy Slagle, who was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 7 was found hanged in his cell on Sunday.

Slagle, who fatally stabbed his neighbor 17 times in 1987, was recently denied clemency by Gov. John Kasich, despite a rare request from prosecutors to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison. CityBeat last week covered the situation here.

The restraining order granted last month to Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, the gay Ohio couple who in July flew to Maryland to officially tie the knot after 20 years of marriage, is set to expire today, meaning the judge overseeing the case must either renew the restraining order or issue a preliminary injunction. Arthur, who suffers from debilitating ALS, a neurological disease, is not expected to live much longer, which is why the two are fighting for their marriage to be recognized in their home state; in the case of Arthur’s death, Obergefell wants to be rightfully listed as his “surviving spouse.”

The first in-vitro hamburger, made of edible beef cells without actually killing a cow, was served today in London. According to food experts, the mouthfeel is similar to a conventional hamburger, but the traditional fatty flavor is still lacking. 

A pool of mosquitoes in Dayton's Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark has tested positive for the West Nile virus, the first in the region this season. 

Two Pennsylvania children have been prevented from discussing fracking for the rest of their lives under the terms of a gag order issued to their family in a settlement from drilling company Range Resources, who offered the children's family $750,000 to relocate from their fracking-polluted home, where they suffered from "burning eyes, sore throats, headaches and earaches" and other ailments as a result of their proximity to Range's drilling. 

It's Shark Week, y'all.

]]>
<![CDATA[Newlywed Gay Couple Sues State of Ohio for Discrimination ]]>

A gay couple living in Ohio has filed a lawsuit today against the state of Ohio for failing to recognize their Maryland-certified same-sex marriage, which they claim is discriminatory because the state is required to recognize any certified heterosexual marriage from another state as valid.

Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive and disabling neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, traveled to Maryland last week to officially tie the knot after remaining as partners for 20 years, reports Cincinnati.com. The trip reportedly cost nearly $13,000 for a chartered, medically-equipped plane, all of which was sourced by donations from friends and family.

Arthur, 47, is a bed-ridden hospice patient and was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. 

In a press release from Gerhardstein & Branch, the legal association representing the couple, Obergefell stated that not recognizing Arthur's marriage on his death certificate, when the time comes, would be unconstitutional. "It is the final record of a citizen's life. It must be accurate. We hope that this can be one small step toward making marriage equality a reality in Ohio and perhaps all 50 states," he noted. 

Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who is representing Arthur and Obergefell, cites the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause, noting that the Supreme Court's historic overturn of DOMA has stripped states of the right to discriminate against couples who seek same-sex marriages.

"John and James were validly married in Maryland. If they were an opposite sex couple, Ohio would recognize their marriage. Being a same-sex couple is no longer a good enough reason to deny them equal rights.”

As an example, he explains that should two first cousins fall in love in the state of Ohio, they can't be wed in Ohio and have their union recognized; however, should they travel to Georgia, where marrying your first cousin is legal, they could come back to Ohio and have a recognizable union under state law, enjoying the same benefits as any other heterosexual married couple in Ohio. The same rules would follow for other stipulations prohibited under Ohio law, such as getting married underage in another state where the union would be legal.

Defense attorneys Terry Nester and Bridget Koontz were not available for comment. CityBeat will update this story with any changes.

Gerhardstein told CityBeat that the plaintiffs will go before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Monday, July 22, to ask for an expedited ruling in light of Arthur's rapidly deteriorating condition.

"Had the Supreme Court made this decision one year ago, this would have been as simple as us taking a trip because I could still walk. It's the progression for me of the ALS, it's...it's just compounded everything," he told Cincinnati.com camera crews earlier this week.


]]>
<![CDATA[Planned Parenthood Offering Free HIV Testing Today]]>

To honor National HIV Testing Day — a day meant to raise awareness about the virus — Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio region is offering free HIV testing at three locations in the Cincinnati area.

Free HIV testing is available today at from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center (3200 Vine St.) and from 1-5 p.m. at the Lower Price Hill Health Center (2136 E. Eighth St.). The test is done quickly using a method called rapid HIV testing, which produces results immediately.

About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV at any given time, and about one in five of those don't even realize they're infected. 

That means those one in five could, at any time, be unknowingly transmitting the disease to their partners, or that they're missing out on taking important preventative measures that could keep the infection from developing into AIDS. The HIV virus is most commonly spread through unprotected sexual contact or sharing needles, or can be passed down from mother to child during pregnancy or shortly after birth. For more basic information about HIV, click here.

In 2012, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio provided 1,225 HIV tests amongst its eight facilities, among a number of other preventive services. Currently, Planned Parenthood branches across Ohio are being threatened by Ohio conservatives' efforts to defund the organization, which provides myriad health services in addition to abortion, including cancer and STD screenings, birth control, pregnancy testing and health care for both men and women. State and federal funds used by Planned Parenthood aren't used to fund abortions, which are instead funded by private donations.

If successful, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature could pass a budget this weekend that would put Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for state funds. A separate set of federal funds would also go to crisis pregnancy centers, which have a history of using scare tactics and false information about abortion.

Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, which will go into effect in 2014, insurance providers will be required to cover HIV testing and birth control.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The Hamilton County Jail charges its inmates a fee for incarceration, and a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) suggests the practice harms low-income inmates and raises little money for the county. CityBeat got an exclusive early look at the report, which scrutinized three counties for their pay-to-stay policies. Among the three samples, Hamilton County had the second lowest fees and did the second least harm to low-income people, according to the report. Although the ACLU was hopeful the report and the election of a new sheriff would inspire some change, Hamilton County officials told CityBeat that no changes are planned.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage, and some local and state leaders had a few things to say about it. The reactions seem to vary depending on a partisan basis, with Republicans in opposition and Democrats in favor. Rest assured: Here at CityBeat, we favor giving equal rights to people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

City Council yesterday approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project and funding for development at Fourth and Race streets, which will include a downtown grocery store. The streetcar measures close the project’s $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The accountability measures, which were initially introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.

Commentary: “The Little Engine That Could.”

Make sure to check out CityBeat’s extensive LGBT coverage for our Pride Issue here, including a mini-profile of Councilman Chris Seelbach and his partner.

It’s local election season. In the next five months, City Council will meet only seven times, down from the typical 14.

Odis Jones is leaving his post as Cincinnati’s director of economic development to become CEO of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority, a city-run utility operated by an independent board. Jones was known at City Council meetings for making passionate pitches for various economic development projects, including the most recent plans for Fourth and Race streets. He told Business Courier he wants to go to Detroit to play a role in the revitalization of his hometown: “My mother always said, 'If you see a good fight, get in it.' I'm in it.”

The Ohio House voted to ban red-light cameras despite arguments that the cameras have reduced traffic accidents and saved lives. An Ohio Senate vote is expected in the fall.

NASA is teaming up with Italy and Japan on a mission to Mercury.

Researchers found wearing a T-shirt with the letter “T” on it makes men more attractive. Critics of the study argue attractive men would be better with no shirt — or pants — at all.

]]>
<![CDATA[Local, State Leaders React to LGBT Rulings]]>

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a ruling that effectively requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

The DOMA ruling also sets a powerful historical precedent by extending equal protection rights to gay and lesbian individuals.

In another ruling, the Supreme Court vacated a case on California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state, and effectively sent the case back down to a lower court that deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The ruling means California will likely begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the ruling’s effects will not go beyond California’s borders.

For gay and lesbian Ohioans, the DOMA ruling adds yet another incentive to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. If FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014 are successful, Ohio’s gay couples will have their marriages recognized at all levels of government. (The group previously aimed for 2013, but it now says it needs more time.)

So far, it remains unclear whether the ruling will extend to same-sex couples who get married in other states but live in Ohio. If so, Ohio gay couples could get married in Massachusetts, return to Ohio and be eligible for federal marriage benefits — but not state marriage benefits. Legal experts and federal officials will surely debate the issue in the coming months to develop a clearer answer.

Still, there’s been a lot of cheering and jubilation about the historical rulings, which are widely seen as victories for LGBT rights. Below are some of those reactions from local and state leaders, gathered through interviews and statements.

Also, make sure to check out CityBeat's Pride Issue for more coverage on LGBT issues.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member:

“It’s pretty amazing. Just as President Obama when he announced his support for marriage equality, this feels like just as much of a milestone, if not more because of the legal significance of the rulings. This is proof that the tides have turned and the laws are changing. We are realizing full equality for LGBT people across this entire country.”

“The fact that they used the equal protection clause means this case will be used across the country for every type of law that has an impact on LGBT people. The Supreme Court just set a new precedent for the rights of any government to discriminate against gays and lesbians. It’s far broader than just the repeal of DOMA, which in itself is an incredible feat. But the precedent that it’s setting for scrutiny on the basis of sexual orientation will have an effect on laws throughout this country for decades to come.”

Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio:

“We are elated that the Supreme Court has repealed DOMA and in effect rejected Proposition 8. These decisions are proof that the tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country, and we have taken two more important steps toward true equality.

“This important moment, however, does not change the reality that Ohio still has a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage. Ohio voters can address the civil rights issue of our generation by voting for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment. We are elated and our resolve has been doubled to collect signatures. The journey continues. We will bring marriage equality to Ohio in November, 2014.”

Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party:

“I’m deeply thankful that the Defense of Marriage Act has finally been struck from our country’s books, and that millions across the nation and Ohio are one step closer to equal and fair treatment under the law. DOMA implemented discrimination into the highest law of the land, and it’s a great day that this ugly reminder of a different time is finally gone.

“Ohio Democrats are honored to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters in the fight to earn marriage equality for all, and continue our march to overcome the prejudice of the past. But despite our victories across the nation, Ohio Republicans in the Statehouse and Governor’s office remain committed to keeping prejudice enshrined in law.”

John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House and Republican from West Chester, Ohio:

“Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and President (Bill) Clinton signed it into law. The House intervened in this case because the constitutionality of a law should be judged by the Court, not by the president unilaterally. While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances. A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”

German Lopez, gay staff writer at CityBeat:

“Cool.”

Danny Cross, CityBeat editor:

DOMA was a real horseshit piece of legislation, and we're happy those old bastards in the Supreme Court did the right thing.

Update (1:47 p.m.): Added more reactions.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act today in a broad ruling that requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in a state where same-sex marriage is already legal. The ruling effectively extends equal protection rights to same-sex couples. For gay and lesbian Ohioans, that means same-sex marriage must be legalized in Ohio before the federal government is required to recognize it. FreedomOhio is already aiming to legalize same-sex marriage in the state with an amendment that could be on the ballot this year, which CityBeat covered in an in-depth report here.

Republican state legislators added another anti-abortion measure to the state budget yesterday, which will require doctors to perform an external ultrasound for a heartbeat then inform the patient if one is detected. The provision is in addition to other anti-abortion measures already in the budget, including less funding for Planned Parenthood, funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and regulations that will allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics. CityBeat covered those measures in further detail here. “This is continuing to go way overboard by a majority obsessed with abortion,” said Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland).

Cincinnati-area employment dramatically increased in May, up 6,400 from April and 5,400 from the year before, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Although the unemployment rate went up between April and May, it went down year over year — the measure economists prefer to look at to control for seasonal factors, such as hiring picking up during the summer because of outdoors work.

StateImpact Ohio says the new tax plan in the proposed 2014-2015 budget could make it more difficult to pass future school levies. The plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it raises sales and property taxes to balance the cuts. CityBeat covered the tax plan in further detail here.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is giving Cincinnati a $37 million loan guarantee for economic and housing development projects that aim to benefit the region’s neediest. In a statement, HUD estimated some of the economic development projects will create at least 350 new jobs.

Cincinnati is continuing efforts to obtain the Wasson Way line, which the city plans to develop into a bike and hike trail.

The other side of the river is getting some love, too: More luxury apartments are coming to Newport.

Cincinnati was ranked No. 9 smartest city in a recent Movoto blog list.

Ohioans may be souring on President Barack Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll found his approval ratings at 40 percent, his lowest grade ever in the state.

Obama proposed an extensive plan to combat climate change yesterday. The plan will not require congressional approval.

The cure for cancer could be found in space. Apparently, microgravity environments are optimal for cancer research.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

City Council will vote on a budget plan today that will include no public safety layoffs, but about 60 other public employees will likely be jobless as a result of the plan in a couple weeks. The budget proposal comes after months of city officials claiming public safety layoffs were unavoidable without the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. But the parking plan is now being held up in court, and the layoffs were avoided anyway.

CityBeat commentary: "Good News Reveals Budget Deception."

The Ohio Senate revealed a budget plan yesterday that made some major tax changes to the Ohio House proposal, but the budget will still effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion. The Ohio Senate plan passes on the Ohio House's 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut for all Ohioans and instead focuses on a 50-percent tax cut for small businesses. The bill also undid controversial language that forced public universities and colleges to decide between out-of-state tuition rates and providing out-of-state students with documents required for voting. CityBeat covered the conservative social policies in the Ohio House budget plan, which remain in the Ohio Senate bill, here.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald came out in support of same-sex marriage in a May 17 interview with Outlook Columbus, putting him at odds with Republican opponent and incumbent Gov. John Kasich, who is running for re-election in 2014. Kasich previously implied support for same-sex civil unions in an interview with a local TV news station, but his spokesperson later walked back that support and reiterated the governor's opposition to same-sex civil unions and marriage. Same-sex marriage could be on the ballot in 2013 through FreedomOhio's efforts, which CityBeat covered in greater detail here.

Twenty were arrested yesterday during the Hamilton County Sheriff Department's sex offender compliance sweep.

A University of Cincinnati study found CPR training does little good, and most people do a lousy job at the life-saving technique. 

Some Cincinnati businesses are taking more steps to protect their intellectual property rights in light of high rates of intellectual property theft in Asia.

The leader of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce is set to leave.

A new study suggests humans began walking upright because of rock climbing.

]]>
<![CDATA[Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Supports Gay Marriage]]>

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald told Outlook Columbus in a May 17 interview that he supports same-sex marriage, drawing a strong contrast to Republican opponent Gov. John Kasich, who is running for re-election in 2014.

“I believe in full equality for all Ohioans, and that includes the LGBT community, and that includes issues not just related to marriage, but also employment and housing,” FitzGerald told the magazine, which focuses on LGBT issues.

He added, “If it’s on the ballot, I’m going to vote for it. If something comes across my desk when I’m governor, I’m going to sign it.”

FitzGerald's position puts him in opposition to Kasich, who previously reinforced his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions after implying support for same-sex civil unions in an interview with a local TV news station

"The governor’s position is unchanged," wrote Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols in a March 21 email to CityBeat. "He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio’s Constitution to allow for civil unions. He’s opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term ‘civil union’ loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues."

Ohio and the rest of the nation have been moving toward supporting same-sex marriage in the past few years. A poll from The Washington Post in September 2012 found about 52 percent of Ohioans support same-sex marriage, and only 37 percent are against it, with a margin of error of 4.5 points.

FreedomOhio, a group advocating for same-sex marriage, is currently gathering signatures and could place the issue on the Ohio ballot as early as 2013 ("The Evolution of Equality," issue of Nov. 28).

"FreedomOhio thanks Mr. FitzGerald for his support of Marriage Equality and Ohio's Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment. FreedomOhio asks Governor Kasich to join Mr. FitzGerald and the majority of Ohioans who support the amendment that provides Strong Family Security while also Protecting the Religious Freedom of all houses of worship," wrote Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, in an email to CityBeat. "We are pleased to count Mr. FitzGerald as a supporter of this important 46-word amendment."

Update: This story was updated with a comment from Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio.

]]>
<![CDATA[Seelbach Wins White House's Champion of Change Award]]>

The White House announced today that Councilman Chris Seelbach has won the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award, which recognizes 10 community leaders around the nation each year for a commitment to equality and public service.

Seelbach, Cincinnati's first openly gay council member, won the award after he was nominated by the the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). He will officially receive the award at a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.

"I am humbled and proud to be recognized by the White House for my efforts on City Council and extremely grateful to the people of Cincinnati for giving me the opportunity to effect positive change in our community. In order to create a city where more people want to live, work and raise a family, we must continue fighting to make sure all people feel welcomed, valued and respected," Seelbach said in a statement.

The award recognizes Seelbach's accomplishments, but it also shows Cincinnati's progress in the past few years.

Seelbach led efforts to extend health benefits to all city employees, including gay couples, and require anyone accepting city funds or subsidies to agree to Cincinnati's non-discrimination policies.

During Seelbach's time in office, the city's police and fire departments created a LGBT liaison.

Most recently, Seelbach co-sponsored a motion that will help avert police and fire layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget plan. He also spearheaded "responsible bidder" changes that require bidders on most Metropolitan Sewer District projects to offer apprenticeship programs.

The Harvey Milk Champion of Change award is named after Harvey Milk, who became California's first openly gay elected official when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated on Nov. 10, 1978 — only 10 months after he was sworn into office.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino. None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law between capital budgets and operating budgets.

A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.

An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a Cincinnati field office.

Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.

The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”

Ohio gas prices are down this week.

A new study found people can better calm themselves down by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.

Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s Space Oddity in space:

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff ]]> The National Rifle Association (NRA) will name Alabama lawyer Jim Porter its new president at their annual meeting in Houston this weekend. Porter replaces current president David Keene, whose two-year term is at an end. Porter served as the first vice president of the NRA board for two years and second vice president for another two years. His father, Irvine Porter, was NRA president from 1959-1960, making Jim the first son of a former NRA president to take the gun lobby's highest office. Meet the man who frequently uses the word "ain't" and believes U.S. gun owners are treated like "second-class citizens" here.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre will reportedly continue to hold down the media spotlight. Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy recently compared an "out of whack"
LaPierre to "clowns at the circus" in response to LaPierre's criticism over the state's tightened gun control laws

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee yesterday signed legislation making Rhode Island the 10th state in the nation to allow gay marriage and the final of the six New England states to do so.

The city of Cincinnati has ceased Recyclebank, an incentive program encouraging residents to recycle, thanks to low participation rates. You can still redeem your points, though. A new perk program will be launched sometime soon.

Homicide in Cincinnati has increased by 50 percent compared to statistics from the same period last year, according to the Cincinnati Police Department.

In other grim news, the suicide rate among middle-aged Ohioans rose significantly over the past decade, a trend mirrored across the U.S., according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, Ohio saw 783 suicides among residents 35 to 64 years old, compared to 517 in 1999. That marks a 41.5 percent increase, significantly higher than the nationwide average of 28 percent.

Art on the Streets and the City of Cincinnati Bike Program are sponsoring The Music Ride tonight as part of Bike Month to celebrate Over-the-Rhine Night at the Cincinnati Symphony. Instruments will be provided, and all age and skill levels are welcome. 

Today marks the kick-off of a weekend full of Flying Pig Marathon celebrations, which, in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, will feature heightened security meaures. If you're planning on driving anywhere around downtown this weekend, be sure to check out road closures first.

The Cincinnati Zoo is holding a “Cutest Baby of All Time: Sweet 16” people’s choice contest. Advancers so far include Gladys the baby gorilla in the "Primate" category and Bernard the King penguin in the "Wings & Things" branch. Today, vote between Joseph the cougar or Savanna the cheetah in the feline bracket.

Speaking of Gladys, she made her public debut in her outdoor yard Tuesday.

We at CityBeat nearly lost our marbles when we lost internet at the office for 24 hours. Meet a man who survived without it for an entire year and lived to talk about it.

Happy Friday: Here is a video of Ryan Gosling smirking a lot and, for a second, shirtless.

]]>
<![CDATA[Ohio's Support for Same-Sex Marriage Continues to Grow]]>

An April 19 Quinnipiac University poll found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage, continuing a trend first noted by a Washington Post poll in September.

With a margin of error of 2.9 percent, the Quinnipiac poll found 48 percent of Ohio voters now support gay marriage, with 44 percent still in opposition. That's an improvement from a Dec. 12 poll, which found 47 percent of Ohio voters were against same-sex marriage and 45 percent favored it.

The latest results varied greatly depending on the respondent's sex. Women supported same-sex marriage 52-40, while men opposed it 49-43.

The poll also found Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, lost support after coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, but Quinnipiac's statement says the drop was likely attributable to a drop in overall Republican support. Portman's approval rating dropped to 40 percent, down from 44 percent in Feb. 28. Respondents had mixed feelings about Portman's same-sex marriage shift: 20 percent said they think more favorably of him, 25 percent said they think less favorably of him and 53 percent said it made no difference.

Even if the small drop is attributable to Portman's new views on same-sex marriage, the shift could be a net gain for the senator through increased campaign funds. After President Barack Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage last year, his campaign raised $1.5 million in just 90 minutes even as some political pundits criticized the president's move as politically dangerous.

The legalization of same-sex marriage could be on the ballot this year following Freedom Ohio's efforts ("Evolution of Equality," issue of Nov. 28). If approved by voters, Freedom Ohio's proposed amendment would repeal Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage and legalize it while retaining some protections for religious institutions.

A Washington Post poll conducted in September found Ohioans were supportive of same-sex marriage for the very first time, with 52 percent in favor and 37 percent against.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

City Council will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. today to discuss alternatives to laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, which CityBeat covered in detail here. Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are pushing to use casino revenue and cuts elsewhere in the budget to avoid cutting public safety services. A spokesperson for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat running for mayor, told CityBeat that Qualls will also consider every option available. John Cranley, another Democratic candidate for mayor, has long called the threat of layoffs “the boy crying wolf.”

City Council unanimously passed a motion yesterday that will require all parades receiving financial support from the city to adhere to the city’s anti-discrimination policies. Council members cautioned that the measure won’t require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will ensure LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate in future events. The measure was inspired by a recent controversy surrounding the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which barred an LGBT group from participating.

An appeals court will hear arguments over the Cincinnati parking plan and the city’s use of emergency clauses on May 6, even though the city had asked for a final decision by May 1. Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s original ruling decided emergency clauses do not remove the possibility of a referendum. Emergency clauses are regularly used by City Council to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed legislation, but the city says that power is weakened by Winkler’s ruling since the city will now have to wait for referendum efforts to safely begin implementation.

Meanwhile, referendum organizers against the parking plan are expected to drop off petitions at City Hall later today. Organizers previously said they have more than 10,000 unverified signatures, but they’ll need 8,522 verified signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The parking plan, which CityBeat explained in further detail here, would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Development Authority to raise funds that would be used to help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years and launch development projects, including a downtown grocery store.

This week’s CityBeat commentary: “Poor Messaging Holds Back Parking Plan.”

JobsOhio agreed to let State Auditor Dave Yost check their books — private funds and all — last month, but Yost says he’s still in talks with the agency about future audits. JobsOhio is a publicly funded, nonprofit corporation established by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.

Kasich’s advice for opponents of the Medicaid expansion: “Kick them in the shins.” As part of a broader budget proposal, the governor is seeking to take advantage of Obamacare to expand Medicaid with financial support from the federal government, but some Republican legislators fear the money won’t be there in a few years. Independent analysts say the Medicaid expansion will save Ohio money, which CityBeat covered alongside Kasich’s budget in further detail here.

The cost of Reds games has gone down since last season, according to one study.

Ohio’s improving economy is leading to less problem loans in the statewide mortgage market.

Headline: “Nobody Wants a Facebook Phone.”

A new laser zaps away cocaine addiction from rats.

]]>
<![CDATA[City-Funded Parades Must Obey Anti-Discrimination Policies]]>

City Council today unanimously passed a motion that will require parades funded by the city to adhere to the city's anti-discrimination policies, marking the end of an effort that began when the Cincinnati St. Patrick's Day Parade barred an LGBT group from participating.

The motion, which was championed by Councilman Chris Seelbach, requires any future parade that receives funding from the city to respect the city's protected class rules, which prevent discrimination against people of color, women and LGBT individuals.

Council members cautioned that the measure won’t require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will make it so LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate in future events.

The motion was passed in response to a controversy that began when the St. Patrick's Day Parade prevented the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) from participating. Seelbach, the first openly gay council member, told CityBeat that Chris Schulte and other parade organizers excluded GLSEN because they didn't want the holiday event, which has Catholic roots, to be affiliated with members of the gay and lesbian community. 

Schulte later sent out a press release claiming the parade's rules do not allow for the advancement of "any political party, social movement or cause," even though the parade allows politicians and other political groups to march.

In response to the controversy, Seelbach and other council members boycotted the parade. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan was the only Democratic council member to participate, but she protested the parade's decision by walking alongside a banner in support of marriage equality.

The parade controversy was also picked up by national news outlets, including Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.

]]>