Advocates for overturning Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage believe their cause “is reaching critical mass” with the number of states permitting gay marriage now having grown to 19, plus the District of Columbia.
“We expect that number will increase, so the tide is really turning,” said Michael Premo, campaign manger for the Columbus-based Why Marriage Matters Ohio, which advocates allowing same-sex marriage in Ohio.
“We’ve seen in just the last year there’s been a 5 percent increase in support for marriage equality in Ohio,” bringing the level of support to 50 percent in polls, he added.
Eighty-five elected Ohio officials have gone on record in support of same-sex marriage, he told a Tuesday town hall meeting attended by about 15 people at the Newport public library branch.
“It is denying the dignity of marriage to loving and committed couples, and we believe it’s a violation of the constitution,” Premo said of Ohio’s ban.
“It’s unjust,” said Jeanne Tucker of Mineral Ridge, who attended the forum. “Everyone should have the right to marry whoever they want. ... I believe in equality for all people, and I feel we’re discriminating against a specific group, and I find that un-American.”
The forum here followed this year’s filing by civil-rights lawyers of a lawsuit in federal court in Cincinnati that seeks to overturn Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage. That suit was filed on behalf of six gay Ohio couples who want to marry.
However, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said his office will defend the gay-marriage ban; and a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich said the governor supports the ban.
Ohio’s prohibition of same-sex marriage takes the form of a constitutional amendment adopted 62 percent to 38 percent by the voters in November 2004.
That amendment says only a union between a man and a woman can be recognized as a marriage in Ohio.
Locally, that amendment passed by margins of 62 percent in Trumbull County, 63 percent in Mahoning County and 70 percent in Columbiana County.
The same law firm that filed the lawsuit to overturn Ohio’s gay-marriage ban had earlier filed another suit that led a federal judge to order Ohio to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. That order is on hold pending DeWine’s appeal.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear oral arguments in that case Aug. 6.
“Our hope is that next year, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that marriage equality is the law of the land, and then we’re done,” Premo said.
Any proposed state constitutional amendment to repeal the 2004 amendment, if needed, likely would go on the ballot in November 2016 in conjunction with the presidential election because the repeal amendment would benefit then from a large turnout of minority, female and younger voters, who are likely to favor allowing same-sex marriage, Premo said.
“It also gives us time to increase the level of marriage-equality support to where we need it to be, which is around 55 percent,” he said.
“The way we know to drive these numbers up is through a public education campaign,” Premo told the audience.
“We encourage people to have conversations with family, friends, loved ones, co-workers and neighbors about marriage equality,” he added.