Emily McCord is joined by Ian James from the organization Freedom To Marry for this week's PoliticsOhio. James says their group is working to put an issue on the ballot to overturn Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage. He says this week's announcement by a prominent Ohio Republican, Jim Petro, underscores a momentum towards supports of the cause. James says the group needs Republicans to win the issue in Ohio and the best way to do that is bring on Republicans like Petro in leadership roles to convince voters.
Emily McCord: Welcome to PoliticsOhio. I’m Emily McCord. The Defense of Marriage Act was struck down last month by the Supreme Court, leaving it up to the states to decide how to proceed on the matter. Ohio currently has a ban on same sex marriage and there are those who trying to change that. I’m joined today by Ian James with a group called Freedom to Marry. Thanks for being here.
EM: You’re working to overturn the ban on same sex marriage here in Ohio. What actually needs to happen to see that come to fruition?
Ian James; Well, we’ve got to get the issue on the ballot. We will do that collecting by 385,245 valid signatures and have representation from half of the counties. And once we get it on the ballot, then we have to run a campaign and the campaign is such that we are explaining why marriage matters. We’re talking about families. We’re talking about what the message is about marriage and also it comes down to marriage is the best way for a couple to best care for and protect themselves and their families, especially in a time of crisis, if you have, as I have. My husband and I were married July 3, 2004 in Canada. We left the country we love because we loved each other and wanted to be married. We got back and we saw that our friends, family, neighbors all recognize our marriage but our country and our state would not. Now we have a Supreme Court ruling that says if you’re state allows for marriage equality, you can have marriage equality. If it does not, you cannot. So, we will have a campaign, a very robust campaign, from the folks we’ve already identified, the hundreds of thousands of people, that support marriage equality and continue that dialogue and identification of support over the next 17, 16 months until November 2014 where voters will vote on this issues.
EM: The current ban on gay marriage was something that was approved by Ohio voters by 62% in 2004. Has that much changed since then?
IJ: It’s an incredible, seismic shift in public opinion. I think anybody that picks up the paper today or listens to the radio and turns on the news, or TV in general, will see that society has really evolved. In March of this year there was a statewide poll in which 54% of Ohioans indicated their support for the amendment. It was 40% opposed. Previous to that there was a Washington Post poll in which 52% supported marriage equality. 37% were opposed. Those were before both Senator Portman announcement, certainly pre Jim Petro, former attorney general, auditor and chancellor of the state of Ohio, Republican, coming on board the campaign in a leadership role. We’re seeing lots and lots of movement out there. And of course it’s also pre Supreme Court ruling, right? I mean, so, the momentum is definitely with us. We anticipate that we will be in the mid to upper 50s at the end of the year and certainly higher next year.
EM: 2014, it will be a gubernatorial election. How do you think that will affect your campaign?
IJ :Well, we’re not putting the issue on the ballot to help or hurt any party or candidate, but it will actually end up helping the issue because they’re be more people voting. Younger voters, by and large, are three to one supportive, so there’s a big goal to get younger voters out to vote. A growing number of republicans are on board and also the momentum is just with us.
EM: You mentioned Jim Petro, a prominent Ohio Republican who came out in support of same sex marriage this week. What impact does that have on the minds of voters? Does it convince people that are otherwise unconvinced?
IJ: Jim Petro’s endorsement and his leadership in the campaign…when asked during the press conference on Monday, he indicated he was not only going to be supportive, he’s going to take on a leadership role. Jim’s going to be able to help with Republicans for Freedom To Marry. Taking on that role and building a broader base, it’s going to be critically important to have him in on board. Look, you can’t win Ohio as a battleground state without winning Republicans. We’ve got a strong majority of Democrats, strong majority of Independents, we need more Republicans to be supportive. You make that case to Republicans with Republicans. And you make the case for freedom and individual freedom, freedom of religion, and freedom from government with Republicans. It’s a winning combination with Jim Petro.
EM: In a larger context, how important is the state of Ohio when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples?
IJ: Well, the reality is, I think, that’s there’s the old saying ‘as Ohio goes, so goes the nation’. I think it’s a very important issue nationally because as we start to have the conversation in Ohio and marriage equality wins in Ohio, then you start to see the winds of change blow more frequently and stronger in other parts of the country and other states. Ultimately, it’s inevitable. Marriage equality is inevitable. Ohio is going to help it across the nation.