When it comes to the power and sway Ohio’s social conservatives hold in our state, especially the homophobic ones, a lot has changed in Ohio in the past nine years.   The story of Phil Burress provides a good example.

Mr. Burress is a self-professed porn addict turned head of Citizens for Community Values, an organization that has crusaded against LGBT rights, pornography, and adult-oriented businesses in Cincinnati.

Remember when Ohio revised its laws regarding strip clubs a few years ago?  That was Burress.

In 1993, during the apex of his political influence, Burress was part of the campaign to enact Article 12 to the Cincinnati City Charter that prohibited sexual orientation to be covered by the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances.

In 1997, Larry Flynt opened a Hustler Hollywood in downtown Cincinnati as Phil Burress protested on the sidelines, urging his local Republican allies to threaten Flynt with prosecution of pandering obscene materials.

In 1999, Burress’ crusuade got the Hamilton County Prosecutor to reach a plea deal with Flynt, where he wouldn’t go to prison for selling pornographic videos if he promised to stop selling them in Cincinnati.

Two years later, Phil Burress’ crusade hit a snag when juries in Hamilton County started acquitting the other shop owners Burress was targeting.

In 2004, Burress was a major voice to the campaign to amend Ohio’s constitution to prohibit recognizing or legally permitted same-sex marriages to performed in the State.  It passed statewide with 61% of the vote, but in Cincinnati, 52.9% of voters rejected it.   During the same election, 53.8% of Cincinnati voters voted to repeal the 1993 charter ban on including sexual orientation in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances.  At the time, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the huge change in voter attitudes on LGBT  rights was the result of changing demographics in the most conservative areas of the city.

As Phil Burress celebrated his Statewide victory, his grip on his regional political base was slipping.  By 2011, both Larry Flynt and his brother each had stores in downtown Cincinnati.

That same year, Governor Kasich took office and renewed the executive order issued by Governor Strickland to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual state employees for discrimination by the State on the basis of their sexual orientation (Kasich discontinued Strickland’s willingness to apply the same protection to transgender employees.)

Earlier this week, Governor John Kasich was asked, in light of Republican Senator Rob Portman’s newfound support for gay marriage and the effort underway to put a repeal of the 2004 anti-marriage equality amendment on the ballot, where he stood.  This is what Governor Kasich said:

Kasich was asked if he could imagine a situation that might cause him to  change his position.

“I really can’t see one, I mean, I talked to Rob and encouraged him,” Kasich  said. “If people want to have civil unions and have some way to transfer their  resources, I’m for that. I don’t support gay marriage. ”

“I’ve got friends that are gay and I’ve told them ‘Look, (same sex marriage)  is just not something I agree with’ and I’m not doing it out of a sense of anger  or judgment, it’s just my opinion on this issue. ”

“I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to  have a civil union that’s fine with me,” Kasich said. (emphasis added)

As reports of Kasich’s seeming endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples began to circulate, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols tried to walk the Governor’s comments back:

“The governor’s position is unchanged. He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio’s Constitution to allow for civil unions,” said Nichols. “He’s opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term ‘civil union’ loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues.”

Personally, I don’t buy Nichols spin.  If my wife and I name someone to have power of attorney over us in case we’re incapacitated, I don’t think I’ve joined into a civil union with that person.  I hope not at least because that’s another anniversary I’l have to remember!

Nichols no doubt was doing this to avoid the ire of folks like Phil Burress who has been blasting Portman for not taking his advice to enroll his son in gay conversion therapy… the kind that New Jersey is thinking of banning and Republican Governor Chris Christie says he personally doesn’t support.

It’s also worth noting that Nichols walk-back attempt comes just after a group of D-List social conservatives and Tea Party activists publicly issued a letter bemoaning the direction of the Ohio Republican Party.  The letter cites Kasich’s sales and severance tax proposals as well as his expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare, but also hits Portman for his same-sex marriage announcement and even attacks soon-to-be Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges for working as a lobbyist with Equality Ohio,  a “liberal homosexual activist group”.

In choosing not to risk social conservatives’ ire, Nichols put Kasich on the wrong side of history, and apparently, the wrong side of current public opinion.  Today, the Columbus Dispatch released a poll that shows 54% of Ohioans support a proposed constitutional amendment being pushed by Freedom Ohio that would repeal the 2004 ban on gay marriage.

As Luke pointed out earlier today, Ohio has gone from 60% in favor of banning gay marriage to over 50% in support of repealing that ban in just nine years for one reason:  Demographics.  Among 18-34 year old voters, the effort to repeal Ohio’s gay marriage ban enjoys support by a 73% to 24%, a forty-nine point marginWith voters 35-54, it still has a smaller 51% to 43% margin.   Independents support it more than Democratic voters 64%/31% to 59%/34% (however, given the poll’s margin of error, it’s a statically insignificant difference.)

In other words, the only voters who support the gay marriage ban are older and predominately Republican voters, and they are, literally, dying out.  To Rob Nichols, Phil Burress may still look like a political threat to Kasich, a lumbering political figure who dominates the political eco-system.  But that’s because Nichols sees Burress for what he was.

If you stood in the presence of one, a living dinosaur would be a terrifying sight.  That’s which Nichols sees.  To the rest of us, Phil Burress is a nearly-extinct Jurassic-era animal.  Yes, he once dominated the political landscape, but he’s been unable to adapt and thrive as the political environment changed around him.

John Kasich had a choice this week, and he bet on the dinosaurs.  It’s the same political demographic miscalculation Mitt Romney made.


  • What “they” do not understand is that when “we” were young the fight for rights and equality was for the races. Our young people grew up not feeling that stigma as much and as harshly as it was. Today’s young have grown up with friends brothers and sisters who are more open about their sexuality and they see that it is no threat to them. That all people should be able to enjoy the same rights with the same benefits. I am sure that those who really are against marriage equality are those who are still against the other equality issues that have been passed and we do see that in how they select those whom they wish to work with.

  • CincyCapell

    Don’t forget Greater Cincinnati based right wing extremists COAST (Coalition Opposed To Additional Spending and Taxes), who are in bed with Burress and CCV.

    COAST attorney Christopher Finney personally wrote Article XII, and other COASTies serve on CCV’s board. In recent years COAST has been defeated at the ballot box in Cincinnati time after time; Article XII was repealed by the voters, COAST got not one but TWO referendums to reject Cincinnati’s streetcar project placed on the ballot (delaying that project by several years), both of which were soundly defeated. All but one of COAST’s endorsed candidates for Cincinnati City Council were defeated in the past two elections cycles, and almost every pne of their endorsed ballot issues have been defeated as well. COAST and Finney have resorted to repeatedly suing Cincinnati and other local governments in order to get their radical right wing ideology enacted, with the side benefit of lining Finney’s pockets with outrageous attorneys fees at Taxpayer’s expenses.

    The real laugh is that Finney brands himself as a Taxpayer Guardian, while stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from those Taxpayers with his frivolous lawsuits. In other words, Finney and COAST are typical right wing hypocrites and thieves.

  • Retrofuturistic

    So how long before the entire Christian GOP becomes extinct? (Because it’s taking too long and Ohio is suffering from their Christian manipulation and thievery….)

  • “Social conservatives” must be the politically correct terminology for “right-wing extremists.”

  • revrocky210

    Congrats to Larry Flynt who has been accepted into the “Filthy
    Still” Club (Rev. 22:11) but who has also won a “Get Out Free” ticket
    offered 24/7 by Big J that’s good during only one lifetime (length of
    lifetime not guaranteed)! If you know of any other potty mouths who
    would be good Hell-minded members of the Club, please send us their

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