COLUMBUS — Republican Jim Petro, a former Ohio attorney general who said his early opposition to the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004 may have hurt his campaign for governor two years later, signed a petition on Monday to ask Ohioans to reverse the prohibition.
He said he remains puzzled as to why other high-profile Republicans haven’t done the same.
The 2004 amendment “is intolerant,” he said. “It doesn’t make Ohio appear to be very welcoming, which is the last thing we need, and at the same time, it doesn’t foster an era of equality. …
“I think that if this [new proposed amendment] were to proceed, more and more public officials will recognize the importance of true equality and the fact that government should be all about equality,” he said.
Mr. Petro opposed changing the Ohio Constitution to recognize marriage only between a man and woman.
The ban bars the government from providing marriage-related benefits to same-sex and unmarried couples.
He was subsequently joined by then-U.S. Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine and then-Gov. Bob Taft, all Republicans. Mr. DeWine is now Ohio’s attorney general.
Despite their opposition, the amendment passed with 62 percent of the vote.
Two years later, Mr. Petro lost the GOP nomination for governor to then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who lost the general election to Democrat Ted Strickland.
Petitions are circulating to put the proposed Ohio Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment before voters next year.
The amendment opens the door for two consenting adults to marry regardless of gender while retaining the right of religious institutions to decide whether they would perform such marriages.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down an integral part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, through which the federal government refused to recognize marriages recognized by states.
But Ohio’s 2004 amendment stands.
Mr. Petro is the highest-profile Ohio Republican so far to specifically endorse the proposed amendment.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R. Ohio) supports allowing gay marriage, but he has stopped short of endorsing this petition.
Like Mr. Portman, Mr. Petro has a child who is gay.
In Mr. Petro’s case, his daughter married in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. She is expecting her first child with her spouse this fall.
“My daughter is not about to come back to Ohio after that [2004 vote],” Mr. Petro said. “And she loves Ohio.”
The Citizens for Community Values in Cincinnati spearheaded the 2004 constitutional amendment.
Its president, Phil Burress, said Mr. Petro’s opposition didn’t make a difference then, and it won’t in 2014.
“He fought us in 2004 when he was attorney general and then ran for office in 2006,” Mr. Burress said. “He was neutral then. Now he’s opposed again. I guess it’s a flip, flop, flip. It was no surprise at all when he got kicked out of office.
“Mike DeWine lost his seat in 2006 after he opposed the marriage amendment in 2004,” he said. “It’s rather disappointing that Jim [Petro] and Rob Portman are taking this position and forcing their opinion on the rest of Ohio because of a personal family situation.”
Mr. Petro said he will campaign for the amendment.
He realizes this could put him at odds on the campaign trail with his former boss, Gov. John Kasich, who will be up for re-election next year.
“It’s my sense he’s dealing with it thoughtfully, but he does not share my view,” Mr. Petro said. “And that’s fair. I understand that, although I would advocate to the governor and to anyone else who would listen to me that the whole concept of marriage equality is good for Ohio.”
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.