Win Some, Lose Some

Let's hope none of the 62 percent of Ohio voters who passed State Issue 1 last November is a woman seeking protection from her abusive boyfriend. That's because now a public defender in Clevelan

Sean Hughes/

Charles Attal (right) and associates Huston Powell and Amy Corbin are anxious to take over the Madison Theater. Two city councilmen hope Attal might take over the Emery Theatre, too, and reopen the venerable Over-the-Rhine venue.

Let's hope none of the 62 percent of Ohio voters who passed State Issue 1 last November is a woman seeking protection from her abusive boyfriend. That's because now a public defender in Cleveland is using State Issue 1, which was sold to voters as a statewide ban on gay marriage, to defend a client charged with domestic violence.

The amendment is practically redundant in the first place, since Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed Ohio's Defense of Marriage Act into law just a year ago. But what many voters didn't seem to realize is that the amendment's language went far beyond limiting marriage to a union between one man and one woman.

A second sentence reads: "This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."

Because the amendment denies the benefits of marriage to persons who are not married, a Cuyahoga County public defender is arguing that the state can no longer prosecute unmarried, unrelated persons charged with a violation of Ohio's Domestic Violence statute.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio has stepped in to file a memorandum as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case. The ACLU says cohabitation is a fact, not a legal status, and therefore Issue 1 doesn't challenge a domestic violence statute that prohibits harming or threatening "a spouse, a person living as a spouse or a former spouse of the offender."

"The people of Ohio who voted for Issue 1 never intended to make it OK to beat up unmarried partners," said Lloyd Snyder, ACLU of Ohio's general counsel.

The grassroots organization Citizens to Restore Fairness (CRF) bucked a nationwide trend toward increased homophobia by convincing Cincinnati voters to repeal Article 12 Nov. 2.

Now CRF has received national recognition from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which recognizes the achievements of the progressive community's most influential and cutting-edge ballot initiatives.

For prevailing in spite of being outspent by half a million dollars, CRF earned a "Ballie Award" for Most Underrated Campaign.

"In a year dominated by fervor and anxiety over anti-gay marriage ballot measures, this little known local measure was the sole victor of the positive gay rights campaigns in 2004," says CRF's accolade, "thereby proving that in politics you can't always win by throwing money at a problem."

No, Cincinnati Really Rocks
Greater Cincinnati's music scene just got a huge boost — and amazing validation — with the announcement that Austin, Tex.-based Charles Attal Presents is buying Covington's Madison Theater in partnership with House of Blues (see "Austin Powers Up" on page 25). More than some national magazine's ad department naming Cincinnati a "city that rocks," the fact that two of the country's fastest-growing concert bookers and promoters chose to invest in the Madison demonstrates that this might be a music town after all.

Not only will the new ownership deal bring a hip Austin club experience to town along with unusual concert tours booked through House of Blues, but the club might become an economic anchor along Madison Avenue in Covington, which needs all the help it can get with non-riverfront development. Is it yet another example of Cincinnati being asleep at the wheel while a plum investment opportunity escaped to Northern Kentucky?

Not really, since Charles Attal seems to have chosen the Madison more because of the club's amenities and possibilities than because the Cincinnati market was at the top of his expansion list. Once he saw the venue and felt that he could reach a deal with its owner, Esther Johnson, an ownership and booking arrangement with House of Blues' new Cleveland operation looked like a natural fit.

Besides, when Cincinnati found out Attal would be entering this market, two city councilmen tried to pitch him on having a presence on the other side of the river. During a recent visit to town, Attal and his associates were given a tour of the mothballed Emery Theatre by Jim Tarbell, John Cranley and Buck Neihoff, chair of the board of trustees of the University of Cincinnati, which owns the Emery.

The Over-the-Rhine theater, which has been closed since 1999, was supposed to be renovated after the apartment projects in the attached Emery Center launched. But a lack of available public funding or lead investor has stalled the renovation.

For years a reborn Emery Theatre has been envisioned as a key piece in a proposed downtown arts district that stretches up Walnut Street from the Contemporary Arts Center and Aronoff Center for the Arts to the new Art Academy of Cincinnati around the corner from the Emery (see "Cincinnati Tees Off on the Arts," issue of May 4-10, 2000). The Emery would also provide a much-needed medium-sized downtown venue.

Word is that Attal and company were duly impressed with the Emery, but Attal tells CityBeat he's focused on the Madison project for the forseeable future.

Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138)

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