Under Cincinnati law, a hate-crime charge filed against someone could double the penalty if police believe the crime was based on sexual orientation.

The newly passed amendment also includeds crimes based on gender, age, or physical or mental disability. The law already covered race, color, religion, and national origin.

"A victory in Cincinnati is especially important because the city has a hostile reputation toward gay people," said Seth Kilbourn, national field director of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.

Opponents of the law say they will file a lawsuit to fight the change in the hate-crime law. They contend that any laws specifically crafted to protect homosexuals should not be allowed because they amount to special rights not afforded to the general public.