Every big city mayor in Ohio has signed on to support same sex marriage, pledging support for the “Why Marriage Matters Ohio” campaign, except one.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, a political independent in his first term, said he will not speak out either in favor of or against gay marriage.
“My position on this is that I will follow the law,” Mayor Collins said.
“Is marriage a civil contact or is it a theological foundation?” he said. “From the civil side of it, I follow the law, and on the theological side, I am a practicing Roman Catholic.”
The Catholic Church does not condone or support gay marriage.
“It's almost like asking a fundamental question if an Orthodox Jew should take a position on the human consumption of pork products?” the mayor said. “The church is not running how I operate in my elected office, but I am not going to be an apostle for tenets that are not consistent with my religion.”
Why Marriage Matters Ohio campaign manager Michael Premo said the group sent Mayor Collins a request to endorse the campaign, but did not receive a response.
Why Marriage Matters Ohio kicked off in Toledo in April and is part of a nationwide campaign for marriage equality, Mr. Premo said. The national campaign began in September. The organization considered putting the issue of same-sex marriage on this year’s ballot, but organizers believed they needed to rally more support first, he said.
Among the elected officials endorsing the campaign are Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Canton Mayor William Healy, Youngstown Mayor John McNally, and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald.
Columbus spokesman Dan Williamson said Mayor Coleman “is a strong supporter of marriage equality.”
In northwest Ohio, former Toledo Mayor Mike Bell; Toledo councilmen Lindsay Webb and Steven Steel; Lucas County Commissioners Carol Contrada, Pete Gerken, and Tina Skeldon Wozniak; Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo), Lima Mayor David Berger; Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz; Lucas County Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter, and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern have all endorsed the campaign.
Last week, the Lucas County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in support of Why Marriage Matters Ohio. Mr. Gerken said he respects the mayor’s right to make his own decision on the controversial issue.
“I won’t speak for the mayor of Toledo,” Mr. Gerken said. “I don’t see this as being, for me, a religious decision, a dogma debate. To me, this is a quality-of-life debate and equality is a core value.”
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he supports the cause and believes in equality.
“History will show that I was the first elected official in Toledo to stand up for same-sex marriage and equality long before it was popular when in November, 2003, I introduced an ordinance to provide city of Toledo employees’ domestic partners with heath benefits,” he said.
“It was hugely controversial and the mayor at the time would not support it, and the ordinance never even came to a vote. I am happy now to see how public opinion has changed in 10 years.”
Ohio in 2004 passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. A poll released last week said Ohioans are sharply divided on the issue.
Exactly half of registered voters said they believed gay couples should be allowed to marry in Ohio while 43 percent oppose it. Support is the same as shown in a February poll, while opposition has declined slightly from 44 percent, despite recent federal court rulings ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere.