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While President Obama on Thursday moved to capitalize on his declaration of support for same-sex marriage, Ohio Republicans were either dodging the issue or trying to shift the discussion back to the jobs and the economy.
On the Democratic side, some elected officials sent out statements of support, but others were unavailable throughout the entire day to comment on the President’s controversial and historic stance on the politically divisive issue.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) could not be reached for comment, but he released a statement.
“The President’s announcement is a positive step forward and one that was long overdue,” Mr. Brown wrote. “It was significant not only in historic terms, but also because I believe it will give strength and support to the millions of [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual] Americans that face discrimination, ostracism, and even intimidation as a result of their sexual orientation.”
It said Americans “in committed and loving relationships, regardless of their sexual orientation” should be able to marry.
Senator Brown voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 while he was serving in the House of Representatives.
Senator Brown’s opponent, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican, did not return calls for comment.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who is considered to be a leading choice for Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, also did not return calls.
Even U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who is usually happy to call to talk with reporters, could not be reached for comment yesterday and instead issued a statement that did not reveal her personal belief, but instead stressed that marriage should remain a state-decided issue.
“I respect the President’s views and our society’s growing acceptance of various forms of marriage relationships and legal commitments desired by couples of the opposite as well as same sex,” she wrote. “No person, or set of persons, should be denied equal treatment under the laws of our country. Since marriage and family laws are determined by the states, I would anticipate that our society will continue to weigh the various legal aspects of this issue and public policy will continue to evolve on a state by state basis.”
In February, during a debate for the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary, Miss Kaptur said she “probably” supported the Ohio constitutional ban on gay marriage in Ohio and said she believes the issue should continue to evolve at the state level.
Her Republican opponent, Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, on Thursday was one of the few Republicans willing to discuss the issue, and joined the political chorus sung by the GOP.
“I don’t think it is a federal issue in any way, shape, or form and it should be decided at the state level,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said. “Right now, I am running for a federal position so it doesn’t matter where I fall on [the issue.]”
Mr. Wurzelbacher initially said he had “no opinion on it right now” and that if it came to a congressional vote, he would seek to stop that vote. When pressed on the question, he responded: “Marriage is defined as between a man and woman. That is my opinion. It needs to be a state issue and not a federal issue.”
President Obama sent out an email to his supporters labeled “Marriage” seeking donations a day after the Wednesday interview during which revealed his beliefs about gay marriage.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern also sent an email to supporters calling the President’s statement “a great moment for the LGBT community as they fight for marriage equality.”
It also said “There is more work to be done, but today we celebrate another huge step forward. Please join me in signing a thank you card for President Obama.”
Mr. Redfern did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.
Former Ohio Democratic chairman Jim Ruvolo of Ottawa Hills said the revelation of Mr. Obama’s latest position on gay marriage doesn’t change the election campaign.
“I don’t think it matters. I think the people in the middle are economic voters, not social voters. I don’t think this has one iota of impact, and it helps him secure his base,” Mr. Ruvolo said.
Robert Bennett, the state Republican chairman, would not divulge his opinion on gay marriage and also said it should be state issue.
“I don’t think anyone’s mind is going to be changed,” by President Obama’s comments, Mr. Bennett said. “Certainly, in light of the vote in North Carolina, I think he just gave up in that state. I don’t know how he carries it now by getting in the voters’ face the day after the election.”
North Carolina on Tuesday became the latest state to adopt a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which it did by a margin of about 20 percentage points. The state measure also banned domestic partnerships and other types of civil unions.
Ohioans voted to outlaw same-sex marriage with a constitutional amendment in 2004.
According to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, voters in the Ohio are opposed to gay marriage by a 52 to 35 percent margin.
“We see the standard enormous generational gap there — young voters favor it by a 57/30 spread, but seniors are against it 60/26,” the group said. “When you expand the discussion to civil unions though 65 percent of voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples to only 32 percent who are opposed. Even a majority of Republicans at 50-46 support either gay marriage or civil unions.”
Neither U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) nor his Democratic opponent, Angela Zimmann, returned telephone calls.
David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said it’s not uncommon for elected officials to avoid talking about controversial issues.
“This is very controversial issue and people in elected office do not want to alienate voters; it is that simple,” Mr. Cohen said. “They will do great verbal gymnastics to avoid getting pinned down on an issue like this.”
He doesn’t think President Obama’s declaration for gay marriage will have much impact on the November election.
Social conservatives against same-sex marriage wouldn’t vote for him anyway,” Mr. Cohen said. “But he could benefit with independents and moderates with a sympathetic view of gay marriage. … If Romney really lurches to the right on this issue, he risks alienating many voters on the political spectrum so I think this is a calculated move by the President and put Romney in a very difficult position.”
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