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Cincinnati NAACP appoints anti-gay activist to board

Gabriel Arana

March 26th, 2009

Cincinnati’s NAACP chapter is concerned with equal rights — but just for some. The chapter’s NAACP board president Christopher Smitherman recently appointed anti-gay legal activist Chris Finney to its board, a decision the president, who has a gay brother, vigorously defended in CityBeat:

Chris Finney has done a fabulous job for the NAACP over the last two years … I cannot be concerned with the interests of any other constituency group. I must look out for the interests of our membership.

Finney is perhaps best known as the author of “Article 12,” a 1993 amendment to the city’s charter that prohibited passing anti-discrimination legislation that included sexual minorities. The amendment, which cost the city $45 million in lost convention revenues, was repealed in 2004.

During an Article 12-related court hearing in 1994, Finney was asked why sexual orientation should figure into employment decisions or public accommodations, like who gets to eat at a restaurant. According to CityBeat, he responded:

Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.

Finney has also stated that he believes landlords should be able to deny housing to gays and lesbians.

Besides being hypocritical, the actions of local NAACP activists are strikingly out of step with the organization’s national leadership, which has strongly condemned anti-gay legislation like Prop. 8 in California. Smitherman appears to think that the actions of Cincinnati’s NAACP should only concern themselves with the plight of African Americans and not “any other constituency group.”

As a response, I would turn to an oft-quoted passage in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter from Birmingham jail:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Thanks to Will Kohler at for alerting us to the story. The contact information for Cincinnati’s chapter of the NAACP is available here if you want to express your concern over their hiring of Chris Finney.



March 26th, 2009 | LINK

“I must look out for the interests of our membership.”

It can be assumed that some of your membership is gay, can it not? And if by hiring an anti-gay bigot they happen to alienate gay members, you are not exactly looking out for their interests.

March 26th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t understand why the GLBT community insists on attaching its cause to that of the black community.

As far as minority status goes, the GLBT community has far more in common with the Jewish community, and they are far more accepting of us as a general rule.

I’m not saying we should abandon work with the black community, but I think the average straight person would understand GLBT discrimination better if it were linked to the historical treatment of Jews rather than blacks.

March 26th, 2009 | LINK

My father would be livid. He stood in support of African Americans in Chicago Illinois in the early sixties. He took a lot of crap from many people. My father was a medic during Korea and became a member of the Civil Defence in Illinois.

As I am transgender, my father loved his daughter, he was my biggest supporter of my transition. He believed in equality for everyone regardless of their differences.

A letter is definitly going out.

a. mcewen
March 26th, 2009 | LINK

All discrimination in every community is linked somehow, Christopher. It’s a matter of differentiating how while the discrimination may be slightly different in every community, the negative effects are the same.

March 26th, 2009 | LINK

“Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.”

There are people who have and still do make that argument about why restaurants should be able to deny service based on race. As in “Because there are some that don’t want their family dining next to a Black/Asian/Jewish/Interracial couple whose actions they find offisive.”

March 27th, 2009 | LINK

First thought:

What happens if a black gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans person needs help from Cincinnati NAACP? They’ll have to hide their sexuality or gender identity from the very people who are supposed to be helping them!

Second thought:

This will give black people in the Cincinnati area the wrong impression – that the NAACP condones homo- and transphobia. This is unacceptable.

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