Moral Watchdogs Criticize Ohio Petition Drive

Joanne Cachapero
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Moral watchdog group Citizens for Community Values (CCV) claims that various pro-adult industry groups have tricked voters into signing a petition to put recent legislation up for a referendum in the Nov. 6 state election.

The law, CB 16, also known as the Community Defense Act, was passed by the Ohio Legislature in May and allowed to become law by Gov. Ted Strickland without his signature.

CB 16 requires adult-oriented businesses that have a state-issued liquor license to prohibit any employees from being nude or seminude between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. It also mandates requirements for the amount of physical space that must be maintained between bar patrons and performers, effectively preventing “lap dances.”

According to the Citizens for Community Standards (CCS) and a grassroots group called Dancers for Democracy, by Aug. 13 circulators had gathered enough signatures to call for a ballot referendum. At least 241,366 signatures were required and Dancers for Democracy spokesperson Sandy Theis said they had collected 248,673. The organizations will continue to collect signatures, according to Theis.

She also stated there had been problems with 1 percent of the 1,000 hired petition circulators, but that those individuals had been fired from their jobs.

The signatures are subject to verification by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and once verified, would allow voters to decide the issue on the November ballot. The law will not be allowed to go into effect if enough signatures are verified as valid, pending the November election.

CCV Vice President Dan Miller said that he doesn’t believe that the CCS or Dancers for Democracy could have collected enough valid signatures. A statement on the CCV website accuses the pro-adult entertainment groups of using deceptive practices and misrepresentation in order to gather signatures.

“That's just silly,” Miller said. “It's impossible for them to have a sufficient number of signatures, because we know that a significant portion are going to be invalid for various reasons. I guarantee you there is no way that the secretary of state can presume that to be sufficient.”

The statement on the CCV site also urges citizens to be aware they may be misled by petition drive workers into thinking the petition campaign is supportive of CB 16, when actually calling for a referendum. It also urges organization members to pray for men who become addicted to adult entertainment, the women “exploited” in connection with such businesses and entire communities affected by the crime “associated” with adult businesses.

“Folks need to be very careful about what [petition] they're signing,” Miller said. “And if it does make the ballot, it's 'yes' to protect families. That's our message.”

The CCV, reportedly, will run its own campaign of radio ads, emails and computer-generated phone calls to bring attention to the issue and urge voters not to sign the petition.