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September 29, 2023

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Group petitions for same-sex marriage in Ohio

Every day that Gwen Andrix sits outside of Grounds for Thought with a petition, she gains roughly 20 signatures in support of her cause.

Andrix is part of Freedom to Marry Ohio, a group circulating a petition to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio.

“I feel strongly that it’s time for this to change,” Andrix said. “People are starting to evolve and realize this is a civil rights issue that needs to be corrected.”

This means Ohio voters could be considering the issue of same-sex marriage when they go to the polls in November 2014.

The petition concerns an amendment to the Ohio Constitution; it would overturn and rewrite a 2004 Ohio amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

In 2004, 61.7 percent of voters passed a provision in the Ohio Constitution making it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. It also barred state agencies from giving benefits to both same-sex and straight domestic partners.

To get the initiative on the ballot, Freedom to Marry Ohio needs to collect approximately 386,000 valid signatures from all 88 counties in Ohio by July, said Andrix, who, along with her partner Amy Holland, is focusing her efforts in northwest Ohio, including Wood County. Wood County requires approximately 4,500 signatures, she said.

The language of the potential amendment has two main provisions: that two consenting adults be allowed to marry and have it recognized by Ohio regardless of gender; and that religious institutions have the freedom to perform or refuse to perform a marriage.

The language has been approved by the Ohio Attorney General, the Ohio Ballot Board and withstood a challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The principle of same-sex marriage has seen growing support in the state within the past year.

After the Ohio Democratic Party announced support for same-sex marriage in December, the Wood County Democratic Party followed suit in January.

“People’s attitudes are changing really rapidly on this issue,” said Mike Zickar, chair of the Wood County Democratic Party. “As people get to know more gay people, they realize there’s no reason to deny them this basic right.”

The Wood County Republican Party has not taken a stance on the issue of same-sex marriage, said Matt Reger, the organization’s chair.

“We usually don’t, in the party, take a stand on issues,” Reger said. “We’ve allowed our candidates and our members to make individual decisions on those issues as they see fit.”

A reversal of the Ohio law would also grant same-sex couples federal benefits like Social Security, veterans’ benefits, health insurance and retirement savings. As of this past summer, The U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that restricted federal marriage benefits and recognition to opposite-sex couples.

This ruling effectively leaves the issue of same-sex marriage to the states.

Fourteen states allow gay marriage, with New Jersey being the most recent after a judge ruled in September that the state had to recognize same-sex marriages starting Oct. 21. Six states have legalized gay marriage this year alone.

“There’s really a good chance of it passing next year,” Zickar said. “It’s going to happen.”

Various polls reveal nearly half of Ohioans support same-sex marriage, a significant shift considering that almost ten years ago, 62 percent of voters banned it in the state.

Most recently, an August poll released by Public Policy Polling shows 48 percent of Ohioans support same-sex marriage, compared to 42 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided.

To gain signatures and interact with the community, Andrix has gone to city and county events, like Black Swamp Arts Festival. The feedback she has gained indicates this is not as partisan an issue as people think, she said.

“I get Tea Partiers, I get liberals and Republicans as well,” she said. “The most interesting ones are when conservatives want to sign.”

While Andrix said she gets mainly a positive response from people who are “really eager to sign,” she has encountered her share of resistance too.

“We get our share of negative comments made; sometimes it can be extremely ugly but that doesn’t stop what we’re trying to do,” she said.

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