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Ohio marriage amend. facing opposition; turnout will decide it

EDITORS’ NOTE: This is the first of a five-part series examining state marriage amendment initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot.

CINCINNATI (BP)–All eyes are on the battleground state of Ohio this fall, and for more than just one reason.

While Ohio may well determine the next president, it also will have a say in the national debate over same-sex “marriage.” Ohio is one of 11 states that will vote on constitutional marriage amendments Nov. 2, and pro-family leaders nationwide are watching to see how this state — a state outside the Bible Belt — responds.

While polls show the amendment winning, support has fallen in recent weeks. The amendment was backed by 65 percent of likely voters in an Oct. 4 Ohio Poll, but by only 57 percent in an Ohio Poll released last Friday (Oct. 22). In addition, an ABC News poll Oct. 19 had the amendment winning by only 48-45 percent.

Phil Burress, chairman of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, told Baptist Press that the amendment will win only if Christians and traditionalists go to the polls.

“It all depends on turnout,” he said. “… We can see right now that with polling we did this past weekend that our numbers are slipping.”

The amendment — which would protect the traditional definition of marriage and ban same-sex “marriage” — has faced obstacles from the start.

The day after Massachusetts legalized same-sex “marriage,” Burress asked state legislators in Ohio to place a marriage amendment on the ballot. He said he was told they did not have enough time.

So, Burress began a signature drive. Needing 323,000 signatures, churches and pro-family groups collected some 400,000 before the August deadline. But the Ohio secretary of state’s office declared roughly 30 percent of the signatures invalid — they were not registered voters — so an additional 144,000 signatures were submitted (a practice allowed in Ohio).

But once the amendment was approved by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell — a man who supports the amendment — homosexual activists filed a lawsuit. Legal action finally ceased Oct. 21 when the Ohio Supreme Court in a 6-1 ruling refused to take the amendment off the ballot.

Now, the amendment, known as “Issue 1,” faces opposition from its two U.S. senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, and its governor, Bob Taft. All three are Republicans, and all three say that the second sentence of the amendment would harm the economy. It would ban Vermont-type civil unions as well as domestic partnerships within state subsidiaries, such as universities.

Homosexual activists, Burress said, are leading the opposition.

“In Ohio, unlike no other state, we have had such opposition,” he said. “They’re going up with TV commercials saying that old people are going to lose their pensions [and] young people can’t own property together. It is the most dishonest, negative campaign, and they are scaring people, and it’s working. So it’s very important that we get our base out.”

Private businesses, Burress said, would not be impacted by the amendment.

“Fourteen of the 15 Fortune 500 companies have not weighed in on this at all, and they have been asked by [the Associated Press],” he said. “They say, ‘It doesn’t affect us.'”

Churches played a “major” role in the signature drive, Burress said. Along the way, 54,500 new voters were registered, most of those from churches.

“I’ve been involved in the pro-family movement for 21 years,” he said. “We’re a statewide organization associated with Focus on the Family, and we have been trying for all these years to get people out of the pews and get them involved in the system. And this petition drive was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. The church responded.”

Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage has mailed 2.5 million bulletin inserts to churches across the state, urging a “yes” vote. The inserts also are available at the organization’s website, www.ohiomarriage.com.

Opponents argue that the amendment is unnecessary because Ohio already has a law banning same-sex “marriage.” Burress, though, says that laws are not enough. Pro-family leaders in Washington state learned that lesson this summer when a judge there struck down a state law banning same-sex “marriage.”

“The problem with laws is that judges interpret laws, and all we have to do is look at Massachusetts to see what lawyers can do to a constitution that’s over 225 years old [and] that John Adams wrote,” he said. “… As long as we have activist judges, laws are not enough. We need to change constitutions. We need to restrict the power of judges.”

Ohio’s proposed amendment states: “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust