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Published: 3/26/2013

Ohioans and gay marriage

In 2004, Ohio voters, by way of petition and referendum, amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Marriage was defined as solely between a man and a woman.

Now that law may be rescinded by exactly the same means — not by the courts, as with California’s similar law, but by the people. A petition drive to place repeal of the law on the November ballot has been in the works for a year and is gaining steam.

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Conservatives are right: The people and state legislatures are better routes to change on this issue than the courts. In this way, a change in the law is not imposed from above, and popular consensus is able to build and shift.

The proposed amendment would strike the 2004 law and define marriage as “a union of two consenting adults.” The amendment adds: “No religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage.”

The petitioners, mostly organized by Freedom to Marry Ohio, need to submit 385,245 valid petition signatures by July 3. The way things are moving in the country, including Ohio, organizers appear to have a good chance of getting them.

Politicians are changing quickly on this issue, because the people are changing. Demographics tell the tale. They trump history and ideology.

Two manifestations of demographics are at work here: One is the family and friend factor. Roughly one-third to one-fourth of people polled in various opinion surveys say they have a friend or relative who is gay.

As with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who announced his support for same-sex marriage after his son said that he is gay, this changes your view. Gays are no longer “those people,” but our brothers, daughters, and neighbors.

Second, more than two-thirds of the demographic sometimes called millennials — Americans between the ages of 18 and 32 — favor gay marriage, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. About half of all Americans appear to support same-sex marriage, depending on the poll. Each year, the general population will move closer to the millennial number.

Gay-marriage advocates in Ohio did a wise thing in leaving churches to make their own rules on this matter. Effectively, that separates religious conviction from legal right.

Many Americans are uneasy with gay marriage because of religious belief, but nonetheless think they should not impose those beliefs on others as a matter of civil law. Another demographic consists of middle-aged men and women who are conservative overall but libertarian on social issues.

A new poll concludes that 54 percent of Ohioans back the proposed amendment legalizing same-sex marriage. The 2004 constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman passed with 62 percent support.

That’s a big flip, but it is explained by the friends-and-family phenomenon and younger voters. Ultimately, demographics trump the past.



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