Many passionate people are working to make marriage equality a reality in Ohio. The questions of “when” and “how” are front and center in the strategic approaches. We invited both Equality Ohio and FreedomOhio to help our readers better understand their approaches and issues they see as being most important.
In full disclosure, our editor helped in the founding of Equality Ohio. Quorum Columbus is intentionally not endorsing either groups’ approach. The views, opinions, and words are theirs. Here to enlighten, are their submissions.
How We Win Marriage in Ohio
How do we win marriage equality in Ohio? We know that gathering signatures for a ballot amendment is not enough. A successful marriage equality campaign is a complex, multilayered process that takes collaboration and experience to win.
We know that the stakes matter. There are 30 states with constitutional amendments similar to ours. There is also a very high national awareness of how Ohioans vote: as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. Marriage equality is about recognition of and dignity in our relationships. When marriage equality goes on the ballot in Ohio, we must be positioned to win.
We know that working together matters. In every state that has marriage equality, partnerships between national LGBTQ organizations and in-state organizations were an essential element that factored into the successful campaigns. Those coalitions were formed based on trust and transparency. The organizations that created the groundswell of successes across the country are Freedom to Marry (national), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Federation, Lambda Legal, the ACLU and BISC (Ballot Initiative Strategy Center). In partnership, these organizations have demonstrated the operational, financial, experiential, and intellectual capital to win marriage campaigns and Equality Ohio is partnered with them to win marriage in Ohio.
We know that timing matters. Not too long ago, many of us were told that “the time is now”. We were all promised that a marriage equality amendment in Ohio must (and would) be on the ballot in 2013. Anyone courageous enough to question whether or not a ballot amendment could actually be passed in 2013 (given polling percentages and available voter turnout data) was publicly shamed as not being supportive of marriage equality. At Equality Ohio, we didn’t and we don’t set arbitrary dates for putting our basic human rights on the ballot for a vote by Ohioans. From the beginning, we have recommended putting a marriage equality amendment on the ballot “when the time is right”. We stand by that now.
The lessons learned from successful marriage equality campaigns around the country teach us this:
Simply put, Ohio needs more than a list of signatures.
How do we win marriage equality in Ohio? Together. We know that we must build a strong coalition to capitalize on the national groundswell and to actually win in Ohio. At Equality Ohio, we are doing just that.
Elyzabeth Holford, Executive Director
The Case for Being Prepared in 2014
FreedomOhio, the organization formed to bring marriage equality, will decide next June if we will go to the ballot in November, 2014. In the meantime, we will not sit idly by waiting for the time to be just right.
We didn’t foresee the seismic shift in the political landscape when we formed FreedomOhio in late 2011. We wanted to bring an amendment to voters to change the Ohio Constitution so a loving same-gender couple could marry and enjoy the same legal and civil rights as any other couple.
Then, as now, the naysayers said the timing was not right. We ignored them. We developed a 46-word amendment that was simple, straightforward, and constitutional.
A Republican Ohio Attorney General and a Republican majority on the Ohio Ballot Board approved the language and the Ohio Supreme Court, 6-1 Republican, rejected a legal challenge against our amendment. We believe this is the strongest and most attractive language on marriage equality in the country.
This amendment will overturn DOMA passed in 2004. A couple will have the right to go to the courthouse and get a marriage license. At the same time, our amendment protects religious freedom by stating houses of worship are free to choose whether to recognize or perform same-gender marriages or not. Clergy members are increasingly endorsing us.
We could not foresee what was to occur once we began our journey when we began collecting signatures more than a year ago.
Barack Obama, in the middle of his reelection campaign, became the first president in U.S. history to endorse marriage equality. Our volunteer base quadrupled overnight.
Then in November, three states passed marriage equality and one state rejected a ban on same-gender marriage. Again, our volunteer numbers surged.
Earlier this year, Rob Portman from Ohio became the first Republican in the U.S. Senate to endorse marriage equality. And guess what? More volunteers signed up all across the state.
While this was occurring, polls were coming out that cannot be ignored. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed 58 percent of Ohioans support marriage equality. A Saperstein Poll for the Columbus Dispatch, a conservative newspaper, said 54 percent of all voters support our amendment. The numbers among young voters, Republican, Democrat and Independent, are as high as 75 percent in support.
While we were working day after day, the naysayers did nothing. In idle, they are not preparing for opportunity or victory.
We did not listen to them then and we are not listening to them now. This amendment belongs to the LGBT community, the thousands of same-gender couples who want marriage equality sooner rather than later and their supporters.
We have a message to the LGBT community and our supporters. Join us. Together we will work and prepare and be ready for opportunity and victory. We are not going to take 36 months off and wait until 2016 based on projections of the political climate three years hence. Think about where we were on this issue in June, 2010. No one could have predicted then the dramatic changes in our culture.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “full effort is full victory. You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” We are going to bring marriage equality to Ohio without the naysayers. They represent a minute fraction of the LGBT community and they don’t represent Ohio.
Too many naysayers are in DC and New York where they enjoy marriage equality. They are in no hurry. Unfortunately, the naysayers include some Ohioans.
To all naysayers, enjoy your idle time. We have been working feverishly for 18 months. We have much work ahead of us. We also know you will be watching from your easy chairs in your living rooms when we raise our arms in triumph and celebrate bringing marriage equality to Ohio as soon as Election Night, 2014.
Ben Deutschle, Chair
FreedomOhio PAC Executive Committee