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Does the Valley reflect the mood of America on same-sex marriage?

Published: Mon, May 14, 2012 @ 12:05 a.m.


Andre Allie, 54, gives his views on President Barack Obama’s declaration of support for gay marriage outside the Downtown Circle store and deli on West Federal Street. Although Allie is opposed to same-sex marriage, he still supports the president and his re-election.


AP National Writer


On the upper eastern edge of Ohio lies a valley built on the sweat of the working class, where steel mills sit mostly shuttered but a once-struggling Chevy plant endures. It is a place filled with union halls and blue-collar families for whom the auto bailout meant survival, delivered by a president many here see as their savior.

The Mahoning Valley is, without question, Barack Obama country.

And native Andre Allie is very much a Barack Obama man: An African-American who “went with history” by voting for him in 2008. A retired autoworker who made air-bag parts. A lifelong Democrat and union member whose wife, brothers, aunt, cousins are all Democrats and union folks, too.

But Allie is also a deeply religious man, an elder deacon at his Baptist church who quotes from the Bible with ease. And he fervently opposes what the president last week decided to publicly support. “It’s wrong. Period. It’s just wrong,” Allie, 54, says of Obama’s declaration in support of gay marriage, a milestone in politics this year.

But six months from an election that will decide whether the president keeps his job, a question hovers over the moment: Was it, somehow, a game-changer?

In different regions of a state where the election could be won or lost, voters themselves have been considering that. And their reflections reveal something far more pragmatic than an electorate that shifts its views because of the headline of the day, no matter how historic.

Allie is but one example, a voter as adamant in his opposition to same-sex marriage as he is in his support — still — of Obama. In his words: “The world is bigger than gay marriage.”

OHIO’S UP-and-coming gay city

The bustling campus of Ohio State University in Columbus is where Obama, little more than a week ago, decided to officially kick off his campaign for re-election. It was a nod to the role young voters played in helping him win Ohio in 2008, but also to the importance of getting that vote out again in 2012.

With a robust gay and lesbian community, Columbus last year was recognized as an “up-and-coming gay city” by readers of the website GayCities.com, while OSU was ranked by Newsweek as one of the top 10 most gay-friendly colleges in the United States.

If Obama’s evolution on gay marriage was meant, at least in part, to invigorate both young and gay voters, he may have succeeded at least with some.

Student David Achille, 25, last year went to New York to marry his partner, Edward, after Ohio in 2004 passed a referendum banning same-sex marriage. One day last week, Achille was standing inside a jail-like cage on the grassy “Oval” where students hang out, dressed in a firefighter costume to raise “bail” money for the gay men’s fraternity Sigma Phi Beta.

He heard about Obama’s statement on Facebook, then watched for himself on YouTube. He said it “kind of made me rethink everything.”

“I was already an Obama supporter, but then that just kind of sealed the deal. We want the equality. We always want to fight for the gay rights. ... And now we have the president behind our backs.”

Alyssa Price, 20, a bisexual woman studying neuroscience and psychology, had a slightly different take. She called Obama’s comments “reaffirming,” “sweet,” “touchy-feely,” even said she hopes it does turn out more gay voters, especially Log Cabin Republicans. “I think that would be cool.” But she was already an Obama supporter and felt no more or less motivated to work on his behalf.

Even Michael Flannagan, a gay student who is the Obama campaign’s campus leader at Ohio State, cautioned that students, no matter their sexual orientation, are hardly single-issue voters. “We care about our jobs and our future. We care about the world that’s going to be left to us when we take over.”


The northern Rust Belt region that includes the Mahoning Valley is as blue as blue can get on the Ohio electoral map. Mahoning County, with Youngstown as the county seat, went almost 63 percent for Obama in 2008. To win Ohio again, Obama needs this slice of the state to turn out strong as much as Romney needs southern Ohio. Yet the president’s comments left some of the Valley’s Democrats wondering if he’d lose the blue-collar voters who comprise the base here.

“It’s the kind of town that votes Democrat but probably is not in support of gay marriage,” says Matt Bins-Castronovo, 38, a workers’compensation lawyer who was born and still lives in Youngstown. He completely agrees with the president’s position but was annoyed by the timing, calling it “a silly thing to do at this point.”

“I guess I’m looking at it through my isolated Youngstown, Ohio, shell. ... Who am I to judge how people will vote and why, what they deem to be more important than other things? But I do think it’ll hurt him somewhat. Maybe not enough to lose, but I don’t know.”


Down the road in Lordstown, Glenn Johnson is president-elect of United Auto Workers Local 1112, representing employees at the General Motors plant that proudly advertises itself nowadays as “Home of the Cruze.” Gay marriage, he said, simply can’t trump what matters most to his members: Being able to provide for their families.

The union credits the Obama administration’s bailout of the auto industry for revitalizing the Lordstown plant. Workers once laid off were rehired after the plant in 2010 began manufacturing the Chevy Cruze, and today some 4,500 people are employed there.

“If you are what I consider the three Gs — gays, God or guns — this may change your opinion of President Obama,” Johnson said. “But if you look at the big picture of what he’s done for our industry and for working families of this valley .... then you will do the right thing. The majority of our members are more concerned that they have a job.”

The Obama campaign office in downtown Youngstown is papered with signs reflecting that sentiment: “This Valley Runs on Obama Power” and “Autoworkers Can’t Trust Romney.”


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Why hasn't congressperson timmie ryan voiced his opinion on this matter? Is he in favor of same sex marriage or not?

Will the Vindy editorial board pose this question to the candidates?

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2nuganuech(46 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Sad that a black man is ready to deny someone their rights. He should be more worried about the pregnant teens and hood rats in his own community.

Congressman Ryan posted on Facebook in support of the President's announcement.

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3Attis(1129 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

The Mahoning Valley is built upon a solid foundation of working families, family values, love of children, and happy marriages not gay ones. Obama's support for same-sex marriage attacks that foundation, which, unlike the current POTUS, will remain. Guess Obama does not want the White House gig for another four years and would rather spend more time with his two daughters as a normal father. Good for him.

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4glbtactivist(320 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Religious bigotry is a terrible thing. Not just because they are trying to create a second class of US citizens, but because of actions the religious extremes often take. The best example of course is the very religious Bin Laden. I have no doubt that Jesus is frowning on Allie. Perhaps it is time for a statewide vote on banning interacial marriage. Oh that's right, that was already done. Passed in a majority of States in the US. They all passed. It took the Supreme court to interpret the US Constitution to get that religious bigotry eliminated. I guess that is what it will take here.

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5VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Sorry, but I do not agree on this liberalized marriage thing. It is too bad The President decided to declare his personal views just prior to a major political fund raising event before hundreds of millionaires in California who gladly gave $40,000 for each seat. Californian's contributed the most to his election last time around and they are setting the same pace again. Does anyone ever wonder why California is 16 billion dollars in debt and nearly bankrupt?

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in God, Jesus, the Bible and, btw, balancing the budget.

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6redeye1(5615 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

VINDYAK i couldn't agree more with your post.But I also read in this article . How the people of the UAW of lordstown feels. Hurray for me and screw you. They only see that they got jobs, but they can't see how many jobs BO has taken away from others with his idiotic policies. But as long as they have jobs, they don't really care about others, This just another reason why I won't but A Cruze

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7greene(167 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Gay marriage is only a money grab. Such as pensions, etc..

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8DwightK(1535 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't see how gay marriage threatens my marriage. What two consenting adults do is their business.

I thought conservatives wanted less government in our private lives?

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9cambridge(4066 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

We are all Americans. Discrimination against one is discrimination against all.

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10walter_sobchak(2674 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

As I have posted before...The institution of marriage was developed a long time ago as a meaningful social construct for the best means of preservation and progression of mankind. The govt. does not prevent homosexuals from marrying. The states license marriage and thus have the power to declare what marriage is. The state has defined marriage as the social institution where one man and one woman live together as a husband and wife using legal commitments, ostensively for the purpose of family-building. In a heterosexual relationship, we know which are husband and wife. Do we guess in a homosexual relationship or do they state it? What if we define marriage as one man and multiple woman? Or, one man and his horse?

Now, I have explained it and did not invoke the bible, God, or anything religious. But, why do you believe that religion and govt/politics are supposed to be separated? I am fully within my rights to make any or all of my determinations based on my religious faith and belief in the power of Almightly God! The First Amendment contains a prohibition on the govt to preventing my free exercise thereof!

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11walter_sobchak(2674 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Since you obviously flunked civics class, we are a country "of the people, by the people, and for the people". We are the government and we are a nation of laws. We, the people, decide what is lawful and what is not. My point about beastiality is that it cannot be defined as a marriage. That is the point. We, the people have defined what "marriage" is. If two consenting adults want to commit to one another, they can. But, in these United States, the PEOPLE have determined what the legal definition of marriage is. Every referendum ballot has determined this, including in California. I'm sorry that you just don't understand the legal point.

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12DwightK(1535 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't understand why every conversation about gay marriage seems to involve polygamy or bestiality. Those are not the issues being discussed.

How does it harm society if gay people marry one another? They already live together and raise children. I don't see the upside of preventing them from having the benfits of marriage like tax filing, end of life decisions and other legal rights and responsibilities.

I hear lots of people being against it but not a lot of good reasons why.

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13republicanRick(1716 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

It's simple, if you are black and believe in God you cannot in good conscience vote for Obama.

Blacks will have to decide if they trust God, or, if they are racist and will vote for anti-religion Obama just because he has black skin.

Vote for beliefs, not skin color.

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14margarita(19 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

First of all, marriage is not a "right". Ok,now that we have that "straight", gay marriage is an abhorrent, abnormal relationship. How can anybody think that this is normal. No, no matter how many times you try, this is not natural. They are trying to play house and trying to show people they are normal; or acceptable, but the foundation is not moral. I can't condemn people, whatever their wants are, but I can condemn the act. Morality does not change...so trying to convince people that it is ok, forget it, you lose.
For all the politicians that think that they can give up their morality to get votes, guess who they have to face when this short life here on earth is over!
Just remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, God has spoken.
This has nothing to do with discrimination-it has everything to with morality. Don't understand???? Read the Bible.

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15Education_Voter(1167 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Look, if homosexual couples are looking for a committed, lifelong relationship, instead of being promiscuous, how can that be construed as negative?

Do you think that if you prevent two gay men to marry, that they will relent and each marry a woman? That's not going to happen.

God created people in his image -- including homosexuals.

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16nuganuech(46 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

You hypocrites can ban same-sex marriage as soon as you ban divorce. You "people" say the sanctity of marriage then have a 50% divorce rate. Piece of crap hypocrites. And why even interview the black guy, they don't marry the baby momma anyway, just move on to the next whore with no self-esteem.

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17Westsider(269 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

As every divorced person knows, marriage at its base is a legal contract that can be broken by the mere presence of one of two conditions; irreconcilable differences or living separate and apart for one year. During a divorce it is all about dividing the property accumulated during the legal contract and setting the terms by which the former "business" partners will abide. The emotional "relationship" piece of it is totally separate from the contractual arrangement. That said, if homosexuals want to have an emotional "relationship," fine with me. Marriage is a legal contract - nothing more - nothing less - so a commitment ceremony would serve the same purpose. I don't care what anyone does in his or her bedroom.

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