Advocates Plan To Challenge Ohio’s Constitutional Ban Against Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage equality advocates in Ohio will attempt to overturn that state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage through a referendum, the Columbus Dispatch reports. The Freedom to Marry Coalition plans to “file more than 1,700 signatures of registered Ohio voters” with Attorney General Mike DeWine — a prominent Rick Santorum supporter — to change the Constitution’s description of marriage to “a union of two consenting adults, regardless of gender.” It also would stipulate that “no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage.”

Supporters are optimistic, but backers of the existing anti-gay language predict that they will defeat the effort:

Tim Hagan, former Cuyahoga County commissioner, Democratic candidate for governor in 2002 and co-chairman of the campaign, called it “the most-significant civil-rights act since 1964. I don’t know how one human being can look at another human being and say, ‘You don’t have the same rights.’ “I have a sister who’s gay. I have close friends who are gay,” Hagan said. “But this is not just a gay issue. This is an issue for all of us who believe strongly in human rights.”

Phil Burress, of the Cincinnati-based group Citizens for Community Values, said that if same-sex marriage supporters put the issue on the ballot this fall “they can kiss (President Barack) Obama goodbye.… I guess they’re feeling their oats because seven states have same-sex marriage,” Burress said. “ They’re going to have their hands full. We’re prepared to meet them on the field of battle.”

Under Ohio law, the group will need 1,000 valid signatures to place the issue before Ohio voters this fall or possibly next year. “If DeWine approves the ballot language of the proposed amendment, it will be sent to the Ohio Ballot Board, which would determine whether the proposal can be placed on the ballot as one or multiple issues. At that point, the Freedom to Marry Coalition can begin the task of collecting the 385,253 valid signatures required to put the issue on the statewide ballot.”

Equality Ohio notes that some 32 percent of residents back marriage equality, but many support civil unions. It also estimates that the cost of getting on the ballot could run as high as $2.25 million.