WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling upholding a Cincinnati measure prohibiting preferential treatment for homosexuals at a time when President Clinton and others were calling for expanded protection based on “sexual orientation.”
The high court announced it would not review a 1997 opinion from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that held as constitutional a 1993 amendment to the Cincinnati charter. The voter-approved initiative banned the city from enacting any policy that enables homosexuals or bisexuals, based on their “orientation, status, conduct or relationship,” to claim “minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment.”
The court’s Oct. 13 announcement came as the president and homosexual rights organizations called for Congress quickly to adopt a bill expanding “hate-crimes” legislation to include “sexual orientation,” as well as gender and disability. The calls for such action followed the Oct. 12 death of Matthew Shepard, an openly homosexual University of Wyoming student who had been severely beaten.
There appeared to be virtually no chance Congress would take up the bill before it adjourns.
The court’s refusal to accept the appeal of the Cincinnati case seemed to conflict with its 1996 decision on a Colorado state amendment. In Romer v. Evans, the justices ruled as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause an initiative that banned state or local laws from granting civil rights status to homosexuals. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission signed onto a brief in support of the Colorado amendment.
The justices’ denial leaves the appeals court ruling binding only in the Sixth Circuit.
In an unusual move, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Associates Ruth Ginsburg and David Souter, filed a brief opinion explaining a denial is not a decision on “the merits of the case.” The court’s order in the Cincinnati case “should not be interpreted either as an independent construction of the charter or as an expression of its views about the underlying issues that the parties have debated at length,” Stevens wrote.
In the wake of Shepard’s death after a brutal beating, homosexual rights organizations and their allies were not only calling for hate-crimes protection, but some were blaming Republican members of Congress and conservative Christian organizations for providing the fuel for such violence. The homosexual rights advocates, including some television personalities and newspaper columnists, charged those who described homosexuality as a sin or who say homosexuals can leave their lifestyle are guilty of inflaming such hateful acts.
Frank Rich, columnist for The New York Times, wrote Oct. 14 the “Truth in Love” ad campaign, which features former homosexuals who have been delivered from their lifestyle through a relationship with Jesus Christ, is “really about stirring up the fear that produces hate.” He cited Family Research Council, a sponsor of the ads.
In response to Rich’s column, FRC President Gary Bauer wrote the beating of Shepard is “heinous and universally condemned by all people of goodwill. [Rich and his allies] have two aims: One is to isolate, marginalize and silence the voices of religious conservatives in the public square; the second is to crush all opposition to the political agenda of the homosexual lobby — for special rights, for same-sex marriage and for homosexual education in the school. … I will not be intimidated.”
Compiled by Tom Strode