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Published: Sunday, 2/23/2014

GUEST COLUMN

It’s time for marriage equality in Ohio

Our amendment calls for a loving and committed couple, regardless of gender, to be able to get a marriage license

BY IAN JAMES
James James
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Ten years ago, Ohio voters approved a state constitutional amendment that bans same-gender marriage and denies basic rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ohioans. Today, the political, social, and cultural world we live in is an incredibly different place.

President Obama and both of Ohio’s U.S. senators support same-gender marriage; 17 states have marriage equality. Celebrities, athletes, and other public figures are coming out. Across the country, LGBT Americans are living their lives openly and proudly.

FreedomOhio believes it’s time for the full rights of marriage to be guaranteed to all loving couples in Ohio. That’s why we’re working to pass the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment this year. Our role and responsibility is to continue to promote this amendment, identifying supporters to allow us to execute a successful campaign strategy.

Our amendment, just 46 words, is strong. It will ensure that a loving and committed couple, regardless of gender, can go to a courthouse and get a marriage license.

It also guarantees that religious institutions can continue to worship in accordance with their beliefs. The Ohio attorney general, the Ohio Ballot Board, and the Ohio Supreme Court all have approved the language of the amendment.

The trend line of marriage-equality polling in Ohio is exciting. It illustrates what we have observed throughout Ohio for the past two years: Our state is ready for the freedom to marry, and support for our amendment is growing every day.

Last year, reliable polls showed that 54 percent of Ohioans support the specific language of our amendment. Last December, a poll by Public Policy Polling showed that as many as 56 percent of Ohioans would support the amendment. A recent poll by the national Freedom to Marry organization concludes that 59 percent of voters in states without same-gender marriage — including Ohio — support marriage equality.

These data show consistent, powerful change in support of same-gender marriage. Our campaign is committed to our strategy, and is working to ensure that when we take our initiative to the ballot, it will win.

FreedomOhio developed the amendment language, the campaign strategy, and the organization that is leading and helping thousands of volunteers throughout the state. This organization’s professional leaders have more than 200 years of practical experience winning political campaigns in Ohio. FreedomOhio has more than 62,000 active members.

Our campaign is built to win by providing a path to true equality in Ohio. We are providing voters the opportunity to say yes to marriage equality, without compromising the autonomy of houses of worship.

Because of its protections for religious communities, many faith leaders and clergy have endorsed our amendment. Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and other people of faith support this amendment, knowing that their house of worship will continue to have the freedom to decide whose marriage it will perform or recognize.

We see an incredible level of support for this amendment among women in general, single mothers with children, and minority and young voters. Some call this the “rising American electorate.” We call it our base, where we have the strongest support for the freedom to marry.

Our amendment is the aspirational beacon that so many Ohioans seek to follow. It opens the door to a better tomorrow, where all people will be treated equally.

Our ultimate goal is, and always has been, to bring marriage equality to Ohio. We believe that educating Ohioans about why marriage equality matters is essential to achieving this goal. But more than that, FreedomOhio has spent the past two years building consensus among the 56 percent of Ohio voters who support the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment.

This is FreedomOhio’s campaign. We will decide when it’s time to go to the ballot.

Ian James is cofounder and executive director of FreedomOhio.



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