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Published: Wednesday, 4/17/2013

Lucas Co. officials back gay-marriage amendment drive

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County commissioners have thrown their support behind the campaign for an Ohio constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage.

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday endorsing the Ohio Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, a statewide ballot proposal that could go on the November ballot.

They are Ohio’s first board of commissioners to officially support the marriage-equality campaign, according to FreedomOhio, which is collecting signatures for a referendum to repeal the 2004 state constitutional amendment recognizing only unions of a man and woman as a marriage in Ohio.

Ian James, FreedomOhio co-founder, applauded the county commissioners for the endorsement, predicting that other boards would follow their example.

“The time has come and we are very proud to have their support. We welcome them in being the first of many county commissioners to join this movement,” Mr. James said. “This is a matter of family security. This is a matter of civil rights. This amendment is a matter of protecting and respecting religious freedom.”

The commissioners, all Democrats, said the resolution continues a tradition of showing a leadership role initiated in 2010 when they extended health-care eligibility to domestic partners of county employees.

“Equal protection under the law is a fundamental right of all citizens, and we must stand against discrimination and do what is right,” Carol Contrada, board president, said. “By supporting this amendment, I support the right of all families to be recognized and respected in Ohio.”

Commissioner Pete Gerken said: “I have been an advocate for civil rights for 50 years, and the fight for civil rights does not stop with gender, age, ability, or race. Now we should extend those rights to marriage equality.”

FreedomOhio needs 385,245 valid signatures, or 10 percent of the turnout in the 2010 gubernatorial election, to place the amendment before voters. Mr. James said the group is close to collecting nearly twice that figure and meeting the July 3 deadline for the Nov. 5 election.

However, he said a decision to go before the electorate this year would be contingent on whether FreedomOhio believes it has enough public support and necessary resources to get the amendment approved.

“It’s not a matter of filing to come close. It is a matter of filing and winning,” he said.

Toledo mayoral candidate Joe McNamara endorsed the Ohio Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment in December. It also has been endorsed by various county Democratic groups in Ohio.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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