The presidential campaign between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry continues to tighten, heating up with the first televised debate on Thursday. Politics, from attack ads to campaign stops, are in the Cincinnati air. In Swing State Central, it's hard to remember a time before Bush's knowing smirk and Kerry's competitive grin.
Over the next month, Bush and Kerry will be everywhere we are — and probably places we're not. For a "fly-over" city like Cincinnati, the constant attention is a welcome change from how we're usually treated.
Yet if Cincinnati is to emerge as the Swingingest City in the King Swing State, a town worthy of attention after the November elections, there's a local political issue worth noting.
On July 29, after months of canvassing, Citizens to Restore Fairness (CRF) filed 14,000 petition signatures, more than double the required number needed to put the repeal of Article 12 on the November ballot. If repealed by voters, Article 12 of the city charter, which denies gay, lesbian and bisexual residents proper legal protection, will be null and void.
At the delivery of the petition signatures, a CRF statement announced, "The business community is with us, and labor is with us. Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Jewish religious leaders are with us.
We all stand together against discrimination."
If individual members of Cincinnati's "creative class" are firmly behind the repeal of Article 12, shouldn't this be the first time, that one time, when the city's leading arts organizations toss aside their no-endorsement policies and stand front and center behind the cause?
Corporate leader Procter & Gamble has given money to CRF, the nonprofit group organizing the campaign to repeal Article 12, because they know it's good for recruiting new employees. Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken calls a local radio show to express his strong support for repealing Article 12 because he understands it's good for city business.
Out of all the top area arts organizations, only Know Theatre Tribe and Women Writing For (a) Change are listed on the CRF Web site as official supporters. At CRF's Feb. 9 campaign kick off, only philanthropist David Herriman and singer Kathy Wade represented the arts community. The well-known faces at the forefront of the leading arts organizations were noticeably missing.
Officially, local arts organizations are silent on the repeal of Article 12, although numerous individuals are supporting the campaign on their own. Playhouse in the Park Artistic Director Ed Stern and Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director Victoria Morgan hosted a Sept. 26 benefit concert. Others are throwing fund-raising parties. It's a start — much better than the silence that accompanied the passage of Issue 3 in 1993 which added Article 12 to Cincinnati's charter in the first place.
No one is calling large art groups like the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Arts Association oppressive or close-minded. If one were to ask staffers and artists involved with the various groups individually, they'd probably speak out against Cincinnati's dark stain as the only U.S. city with an anti-gay charter provision.
But local arts organizations and their leaders remain the silent majority, even on this one cause where they should speak out at least as loudly as their peers in the political and business communities.
You'll never see a "Take Back the White House" banner hanging in the Music Hall lobby because, well, many Music Hall supporters favor the current president. Yet one would think that the repeal of Article 12 is a no-brainer when it comes to support from Cincinnati's arts community.
Perhaps the institutions do support the repeal of Article 12. They just can't let anyone know it.