COLUMBUS - The sole statewide issue on Ohio's ballot Tuesday would add a ban on same-sex marriage to Ohio's Constitution.
A coalition of religious and conservative groups collected enough signatures to put Issue 1 on the ballot.
Backers said a state law that Gov. Bob Taft signed on Feb. 6 was not enough protection against what they call "activist judges." They cited the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in November, 2003, that said gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry.
"There is great potential for these activist judges to throw out the laws already on the books defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman," said Chris Long, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Ohio. "We need only look to Massachusetts to understand what could happen in Ohio. It only makes sense to take pre-emptive action to defend the institution of marriage before the homosexual lobby and their allies on the bench try to completely redefine it."
Gay-rights activists and their allies have not focused on the marriage debate. Instead, they have asserted that the second sentence of the proposed amendment is ambiguous and would strip rights from unmarried heterosexual couples.
The entire text is: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. 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."
Alan Melamed, campaign manager for the group opposing Issue 1, said courts could not recognize domestic partner benefits that 60 companies, including Owens Corning and DaimlerChrysler, provide to employees who have same-sex or opposite-sex partners.
But David Langdon, an attorney who helped draft Issue 1, said the critics are wrong.
He said if voters approve the constitutional amendment, there will be no effect on what private companies can do or what two individuals with a contract to buy property or who have signed a will can do.
Mr. Langdon said Issue 1 would prohibit Ohio governments from providing domestic partner benefits such as health insurance to employees in heterosexual or homosexual relationships, setting up domestic partner registries that could be used to gain rights similar to marriage, or using another word or phrase to try to mimic the benefits of marriage.
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