Possible in our lifetime?
By Stacey Ritz
Photo: Denied marriage rights in Ohio, same-sex couples strive to move towards marrige equality; photo credit: bSkS Studios – Brian & Kiersten Siler (bSkSStudios.com)
“I can remember the hurt I felt when the people of Ohio voted to deny me the right to marry the one person I’ve been with since 1984, making me a second-class citizen. We took a huge step backward that day when we allowed people to point their finger at another group and essentially say ‘we don’t like you.’ It’s time to undo that injustice and bring our state into the 21st century. LGBTQ people pay taxes just like anyone else and should be afforded the same rights,” said Jack Gordon. Gordon and partner Bill Foos agree that the biggest challenge to achieving marriage equality in Ohio is misinformation. “There are many people and groups out there that continue to spread outright lies and compare homosexuality to murder, pedophilia, bestiality and more to scare the public. It has been said for years that the LGBTQ community should not be afforded ‘special’ rights. No one is talking about special rights, merely equal rights – nothing more, nothing less.”
As of 2004, Ohio passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage and was one of 13 states to do so. The ban prohibits lesbian and gay couples from enjoying nearly 1,400 rights, benefits and protections afforded to heterosexual married couples; benefits such as the ability to convey property, to make medical decisions and to have the right to adopt a child. However, it is possible that the ban could be overturned as early as November 2013. Freedom Ohio is working towards the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment to the Ohio Constitution, which, if passed, would grant two consenting adults the right to marry regardless of gender. At the same time, the amendment would not infringe upon religious freedoms. Religious institutions would be free to recognize or not recognize the marriage. Ohio needs to collect approximately 386,000 valid signatures to place the amendment on the ballot. The amendment has support in all 88 Ohio counties from Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Ian James, a volunteer with Freedom Ohio stated, “Ohio would generate $126+ million within the first three years of passage of the amendment. It would also create/retain 1,400 jobs in the wedding planning industry in Ohio. That means almost $5.9 million for Montgomery County alone. Additionally, marriage will save businesses money in employer taxation. That’s because employers that provide Domestic Partner benefits must pay employment tax on those benefits and the employee must pay income tax, because those benefits – unlike the benefits for married couples – are considered ‘income’.” The Freedom Ohio PAC has the sole purpose of repealing and replacing the 2004 Marriage Ban found in Article XV Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution. James is motivated in his work for Freedom Ohio as he shared, “My husband and I were legally wed in Toronto, Canada on July 4, 2003. While our family and friends acknowledge our marriage, we ask that our government do the same and treat us as they do any other married couple.”
Freedom Ohio, Equality Ohio and Marriage Equality Ohio are three volunteer grassroots organizations working towards marriage equality. Adam Hoover shared, “I created Marriage Equality Ohio at the age of 15 and have been organizing marriage equality rallies and protests all across the state since that time. I, of course, support putting the amendment to the Ohio Constitution on the ballot in November. I am gay myself and have been fighting for equality every day of my life. The sooner we have marriage equality on the ballot, the sooner we can be finally given our freedom. Let’s be honest, I don’t feel human rights should be voted on. I feel human rights should be a given. I didn’t get to vote on straight marriages. Why should everyone vote on my marriage? I feel marriage is about love between two consenting adults. If you love someone, you should be able to marry them. I’m only 18 years old and I like to think I am just like everyone else. I go to school, work, sports, home life and so forth. I just happen to be gay. To be honest, I am proud of who I am.”
Gayle Grant explained, “I want to have the ability to marry my life partner, in our lifetime, here in Ohio. We deserve to have health insurance, hospital visitation rights and adoption rights – the same as all married couples. I want marriage equality to pass in Ohio this November for many reasons, another being that I could finally eliminate my fear of being fired at my job just because of who I am in a relationship with.”
The Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment language has been approved by the Ohio Attorney General, the Ohio Ballot Board and withstood a challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court. There has been a shift in attitude, and with 54 percent of Ohioans now supporting an overturning of the same-sex marriage ban, change is on the way. 42 percent of Republicans support the amendment and “this was prior to Senator Portman’s historic announcement for the freedom to marry. The country and Ohio have seen seismic shifts in public opinion.” James added, “As Ohio goes – so goes the nation.”
To learn more about the proposed amendment supporting same-sex marriage in Ohio, visit freedomohio.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at StaceyRitz@DaytonCityPaper.com