Another GOP Pol Takes the Portman Route As Ohio Kicks Off Petition Drive To Reverse Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

July 8th, 2013

Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who oversaw the state’s 2004 ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage and all other forms of partnership recognition, is now supporting the effort to overturn that ban. As Timothy Kincaid reported last week, the former GOP AG’s endorsement of the ban’s reversal had been expected. But today’s announcement goes much further, with Petro being the star speaker at a news conference announcing the start of a massive signature gathering campaign by Freedom Ohio to get the proposal rescinding of the constitutional amendment onto the ballot for 2014.

Petro said when he was asked to support gay marriage, he “quickly and without hesitation said ‘I’m all for it.’ ” He said he will be active in the 2014 campaign and hopes more Republicans join him.

The 2004 constitutional amendment forbidding same-same marriage is a “roadblock to diversity” and leaves the public and the business community with the impression that that the state is ” intolerant and unwelcoming.”

Petro’s personal reason for his change in position is a familiar one:

Petro switched his position after his daughter, Corbin, legally married a woman in Massachusetts last year.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced his support for marriage equality in March after his son came out to him.

Ohio’s process for getting an issue placed on the ballot is a daunting one. Freedom Ohio must collect 385,245 valid signatures — a number that is equal to ten percent of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. But Freedom Ohio won’t have the luxury of circulating petitions in larger urban areas where support would be expected to be greatest. They will also need to make sure that in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, they collected enough signatures to equal at 5% of the number of people voting in the last gubernatorial election for that county. Just getting on the ballot is half the battle, and if Freedom Ohio can accomplish it, then it bodes well for tapping into a broad geographic base of support.

Ohio’s Issue 1 of 2004, which banned same-sex marriage and all other legal recognition for same-sec couples, was approved by 62% Ohio voters. Issue 1 was placed on the ballot by the General Assembly. Equality Ohio, which was formed in the aftermath of Issue 1, has so far withheld its support for Freedom Ohio’s campaign:

Ian James, co-founder of Freedom Ohio, said his organization’s executive committee decided to move forward with Ohio campaign next year even there is no consensus among national gay, lesbian and transgender groups about going to the ballot here in 2014 or 2016.

“When we file these petitions and reach the ballot, everybody will be with us,” he said.

Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio, another LGBT group, said there is ” absolutely no formal commitment at this time” to support a 2014 issue. “Equality Ohio is working with our national partners and we will be going when the time is right.”

It kind of reminds me of when Olsen and Boies announced, over the objections of several national LGBT advocacy orgs, that they were going to challenge Prop 8 in Federal Court.

A similar signature-gathering campaign is also underway in Arizona to overturn constitutional bans are already underway in Arizona, and as similar effort will launch later this month in Oregon. Nevada’s legislature has completed the first steps of a long process to reverse that state’s marriage ban in 2016.

Mark

July 8th, 2013

In 2009, Olson and Boies had a devoted funding and publicity source (AFER) and a well-designed plan.

“Freedom Ohio” seems to have no plan, no clear funding source, and no explanation as to why–on an issue where younger voters are much more supportive than older voters–it makes sense to go to the ballot in 2014 (when the percentage of younger voters will be lower) instead of waiting for 2016, especially since polls show the margin, at best, to be very close. Nor does “Freedom Ohio” have any explanation as to why it’s better suited to judge conditions than a group like Freedom to Marry, which enjoyed unprecedented success in last year’s ballot races.

Other than that, this is just like Olson and Boies…

esurience

July 8th, 2013

“Petro’s personal reason for his change in position is a familiar one:”

I think you meant to have a quote after this sentence referencing his lesbian daughter.

Hunter

July 9th, 2013

Mark:

AFER was created specifically to support the effort to overturn Prop 8, which was launched over the opposition of the national gay advocacy groups, which had amply demonstrated their lack of support (and general timidity) during the Prop 8 campaign.

As for a local group being better able to judge local conditions than a national group, makes sense to me.

I wonder if anyone in HRC, GLAAD, etc. has stopped to think about the likely effect on their credibility with the community if they were actually to get behind an effort like this and push. If the local groups had waited until “the time is right,” I doubt we’d have made anywhere near the progress we’ve made — you fight the fights you have, you don’t wait around until someone hands you the fight you want.

Mark

July 9th, 2013

Agreed: AFER was formed for precisely that reason–to establish the fundraising and legal talent so that the anti-Prop 8 legal effort could bypass national groups. What evidence exists that “FreedomOhio” has anything like the equivalent fundraising or the political talent? The only thing we’ve seen to date, a meeting (reported by BuzzFeed) in which “FreedomOhio” seemed to misrepresent what every other group in the meeting said, portrayed the group as amateurish and delusional.

See Molly Ball’s article (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/gay-marriage-campaigners-reveal-their-next-steps/277557/) in today’s Atlantic about Freedom to Marry, explaining in considerable detail the group’s strategy and noting that Freedom to Marry wants to wait for Ohio until 2016. Maybe “FreedomOhio” is right, and a group that went 4-for-4 last year is wrong. But based on 2012, I think Freedom to Marry has a little more credibility than “FreedomOhio.”

As a donor and volunteer in the successful effort in Maine, I don’t recall our local group (Mainers United for Marriage) as believing that it was restrained in any way by national groups, which fully backed the effort. It understood that, to win, it was necessary to wait “until the time was right”–including not going to the ballot in a year when younger voters were likely not to turn out in large enough numbers. But, again, maybe “FreedomOhio” has discovered a formula that avoids this problem as well.

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