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Published: Wednesday, 12/19/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Toledo City Council president endorses referendum to repeal state ban on gay marriage

Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara
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Toledo Council President Joe McNamara joined the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio with his endorsement on Tuesday of a referendum that could go on the November ballot.

Mr. Mcamara said the “marriage equality” campaign is the civil rights issue of this era.

The proposed amendment would repeal the 2004 state constitutional amendment recognizing only unions of a man and a woman as a marriage in Ohio.

It would state that in Ohio, marriage would be a union of two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousins and not having a husband or wife living, and that no religious institution could be required to perform or recognize a marriage.

“This is a thoughtfully crafted amendment to the Ohio Constitution that gives a loving couple, regardless of gender, the freedom to marry. At the same time, the amendment ensures religious institutions have the freedom to choose to recognize or not recognize same-gender marriages,” Mr. McNamara said.

Mr. McNamara, a Democrat, is a possible 2013 candidate for mayor. Mayor Mike Bell, a political independent, and Democrat Anita Lopez, are also potential candidates.

Church evangelist Opal Covey is the only declared candidate.

Mr. McNamara has been at the forefront of the gay- marriage movement. In 2007, he introduced a council ordinance to create a domestic partnership registry for Toledo to allow same-sex couples claiming benefits to demonstrate that they have a legitimate relationship.

At the time, Mr. McNamara said the intent of the legislation was to boost Toledo’s economic development by making it attractive to the creative class.

The registry was approved by council and today has 194 couples. Mr McNamara said the registry “definitely helped our image as a progressive, welcoming, and diverse community.”

The marriage-equality referendum signatures are being gathered by FreedomOhio Inc., a Columbus group, with the goal of putting the question to Ohio voters in November.

Ian James, FreedomOhio co-founder, thanked Mr. McNamara for endorsing marriage equality, as the campaign is being termed.

“All couples, regardless of gender, deserve the right to marry and to ensure their family’s security. We are grateful to Toledo Council President McNamara for standing up for civil rights, family security, and religious freedom in Ohio,” Mr. James said.

Mr. James said the language of the proposed state constitutional amendment is similar to the amendments that have been adopted in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state. He said the wording in the amendment relating to kin and living husbands and wives is taken from state law.

He said the group has passed the first hurdle in raising signatures by getting signatures equivalent to at least 5 percent of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election in at least half of the state's counties.

The next step is to collect at least 385,245 signatures, which was 10 percent of the turnout in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

“The tide has turned when it comes to the issue of marriage equality. When people look at the amendment and examine what’s in their hearts, the natural conclusion is that this is a matter of social justice,” Mr. James said.

He cited a Washington Post poll of Ohio voters conducted in September that showed voters in favor of allowing same-sex marriage by 52-37 percent.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Dec. 13 showed 45 percent of registered voters in Ohio supported gay marriage and 47 percent opposed it. If that’s true, then Ohio voters’ attitudes are softening. The 2004 amendment banning gay marriage was approved with 61.7 percent of voters in support.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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