Democratic congressional candidate changes view on gay marriage

By David Skolnick


Congressional candidate Jennifer Garrison, who made her opponent’s opposition to Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act a key issue in her successful 2004 state House race, now says she supports same-sex marriages.

“I believe in equality under the law,” Garrison, a Democrat from Marietta, told The Vindicator exclusively after a Tuesday event at the Hampton Inn in Canfield to kick off her campaign for the 6th Congressional District seat.

Churches shouldn’t be forced to officiate gay marriages, however, she said.

When asked why she changed her mind, Garrison said, “Lots of kitchen tables around the country in the last five years have discussed and debated this issue as well as mine. In the state Legislature, I had the opportunity to meet many people who explained how not having the protections impacted them. ... Quite frankly, it’s unfair and it feels discriminatory to me.”

During Garrison’s first successful campaign for an Ohio House seat in 2004, she criticized her opponent Nancy Hollister, the only House Republican to oppose DOMA, for her vote.

Garrison said she also supported anti-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation in 2009.

“You see a pattern there of understanding,” she said.

The United States Supreme Court ruled last month that the federal DOMA is unconstitutional.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta who’s in his second two-year term representing the 6th District, said about the ruling that “Americans of faith are under attack” and “liberals on the Supreme Court refused to defend traditional marriage itself, even though that’s what most Americans want.”

Garrison’s kickoff event featured several prominent officials in the Mahoning Valley who endorsed her in next year’s congressional race.

Among them are Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti (who was considering a run for the seat) and Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti; county Recorder Noralynn Palermo; county Engineer Patrick Ginnetti; Dennis Johnson, Columbiana County Democratic Party chairman; Columbiana County Treasurer Linda Bolon [who served in the Ohio House with Garrison]; state Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th; and Michael O’Brien, a former Trumbull County commissioner and Warren mayor.

Garrison served three two-year terms in the Ohio House representing all or part of five southern counties that are in the 6th District.

The 18-county 6th District includes all of Columbiana, the most-populous county in the district, and the southern and central-western portions of Mahoning County.

David Betras, the Mahon-ing County Democratic Party chairman, attended the event, saying he was there to “support and welcome a Democratic candidate running for Congress.”

Betras said he’ll let the party’s committee members endorse in the race.

Johnson said he spoke with members of his party’s executive committee who also endorse Garrison, and the party will make it official at a meeting at the end of next month.

Winning in Columbiana and Mahoning — 36 percent of the 6th District’s vote total in the 2012 race came from those two counties — is key to getting elected.

State Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville, D-30th, is considering getting in the Democratic primary for the seat.

Gentile represents 10 counties in the district.

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