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May 13, 1995
On May 12, a federal appeals court reinstated a city charter amendment denying gays special protection against discrimination, ruling gays are not an "identifiable class" worthy of such status.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a federal judge misconstrued legal precedents when he rejected a voter-approved referendum that forbade the city from including sexual orientation in its human-rights ordinance.
The appeals court said "the reality remains that no law can successfully be drafted that is calculated to burden or penalize, or to benefit or protect, an unidentifiable group or class of individuals whose identity is defined by subjective and unapparent characteristics such as innate desires, drives and thoughts."
It said the ballot initiative did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution because that only insulates citizens from unlawful discriminatory state action. The clause, the court says, does not construct a barrier against private discrimination.
U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled in August that the 1993 city charter amendment approved by voters was unconstitutional because it was vague and violates homosexuals' free-speech and equal- protection rights.
Spiegel also found that gays and lesbians were deprived of political access to their government and qualified as a special class entitled to civil-rights protections equal to such protected groups as women.
Washington attorney Michael Carvin, who represented the city and a citizens' group that pushed for the referendum, called the appeals court ruling "a victory across the board."
"The court rejected the notion that homosexuals are entitled to special protections as a quasi-class," Carvin said. "The plaintiffs were arguing that you have to include homosexual rights in civil rights laws . . . those were very extraordinary notions."
Scott Greenwood, a trial attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was shocked that the appeals court ruling rejected virtually every point Spiegel made in his decision.
"The decision is stunning in its homophobic rhetoric," Greenwood said.
Suzanne Goldberg, a New York attorney for the gay rights organization Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said she was stunned by the ruling.
Goldberg said she will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court,
possibly with a similar appeal from a Colorado state court.
from Tribune Wires. Copyright Chicago Tribune
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