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 The amendment, which cost the city $45 million in lost convention revenues, was repealed in 2004.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 back2stonewall.com 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.