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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

Opponents seek debate on Issue 1

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Opponents of a Nov. 2 ballot issue that would add a law banning same-sex marriage and civil unions to the Ohio Constitution want to debate state Auditor Betty Montgomery.

Ms. Montgomery, a former Wood County prosecutor who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2006, said she supports Issue 1.

"You know that most Ohioans are still unfamiliar with the content of the amendment," wrote Alan Melamed, campaign manager for the anti-Issue 1 group, in a letter delivered to her office. "You know it is being promoted by claims that its intention is solely to protect the definition of marriage, when it is so much more."

The Columbus Metropolitan Club is sponsoring a debate Friday in Columbus, but the pro-Issue 1 group declined to send a representative to face off against Mr. Melamed, saying it "will debate this issue in the media," said Lori Marlow, the club's program coordinator.

A Montgomery aide said she was not available for an interview yesterday. Political consultant, Mark Weaver, said she won't be at Friday's debate, sponsored by Columbus Metropolitan Club.

"She thinks marriage is between a man and a woman, what society has decreed since the dawn of time, and Ohio law should offer every possible protection for that," Mr. Weaver said.

Mr. Melamed said the anti-Issue 1 group invited her to debate because she is a former two-term attorney general.

Attorney General Jim Petro, who also is running for governor in 2006, opposes Issue 1. He said it "is designed to limit the rights of any nonmarried couple and will limit the rights of private companies and public institutions to offer benefits to certain groups of people.''

The proposed amendment states "only a union between a man and a woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions." The controversy over Issue 1 is the second sentence, which states: "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."

Opponents say if voters approve Issue 1, the rights of unmarried couples - heterosexual or homosexual - will be taken away, from property rights to life insurance.

David Langdon, the Cincinnati attorney representing the pro-Issue 1 Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, said the amendment would prohibit local governments and state-supported universities and colleges from offering benefits such as health insurance to unmarried couples - but private companies could continue to do so.

Gov. Bob Taft has not taken a position yet on Issue 1, said his press secretary, Orest Holubec. The governor's chief legal counsel is conducting a review "so we know what it does and does not do," Mr. Holubec said. Mr. Taft ordered a similar review before signing the "Defense of Marriage Act'' bill Feb. 6.

Contact James Drew

at jdrew@theblade

or 614-221-0496.



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