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Same-Sex Marriage Effort Begins Despite Internal Disagreements

Backers of gay marriage are embarking on a public awareness campaign to educate Ohioans about the need for changing the state law. They are holding several kickoff campaigns throughout the state. But there’s some dissension between gay rights activists about the best way to go about dealing with the issue. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles has details.

Equality Ohio leaders stand on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse with state legislators, business leaders and gay parents to launch an education campaign to explain why they think Ohio should change its law to allow gay marriage.  Rick Neal holds a toddler in his arms, explaining that while he considers her his daughter, Ohio law doesn’t.

Neal – Same sex couples who want to adopt in Ohio cannot do so together.  They have to choose which one of them is going to present themselves as a single person to be the legal parent to their children and which one of them is going to be left out.  So you can imagine the conversations Tom and I had when we got ready to start a family.  Which one of us was going to be the single parent and be the legal father of our children and which one was going to be excluded and have no legal relationship with our children.

Neal says he and his partner were married in another state but that marriage is not recognized in Ohio because of a voter approved constitutional amendment in 2004.  The Reverend Tim Ehrens of the First Congregational Church in Columbus says there are many same sex married couples who should be living here in Ohio but don’t because of the state’s laws.

Ehrens – There are those who I have performed weddings for who have left Ohio because they do choose to adopt and they do want to be recognized legally.  So they have moved to other places.  I communicate with them.  They want to come home to Ohio – the heart of it all.  They want to be here to call this home because this is where their family is.

Elizybeth Holford with Equality Ohio says the education campaign her group is spearheading will make Ohioans more aware of how the state laws that ban gay marriage are hurting families.  But her group is not going to try to put an issue on the ballot next year to let Ohioans decide whether to overturn the law.  Another group, the Freedom to Marry Coalition, is doing that.  Holford says they’ve been invited to work on her group’s cause too.

Holford - We are grateful for the effort in putting together and working on a petition effort but at the same time, what we know from just last week in an independent survey, we know that the numbers in Ohio are not strong enough yet.  We have invited that campaign to work with us.  At this point, they have said “no” but the door is always open.

James - Well it wasn’t quite exactly put that way.

That’s Ian James with the Freedom to Marry Coalition.
James – We were invited to be a part of an organization where we were going to have to stop collecting signatures, put the petition drive aside, and we said we are more than happy to work on an educational campaign about why gay marriage matters.  We are very thankful they are doing that because we think that’s going to be helpful in the overall campaign of building support amongst Ohioans and Ohio voters but we weren’t about to let down the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve signed the petition and thousands of volunteers who are working every day to build the coalition.

James and Holford remain at odds over when Ohioans should be asked to change the law to allow gay marriage.  James thinks it should happen next November.  Holford wants to wait a couple more years until more Ohioans favor the idea.  One group that won’t be supporting James or Holford is the Citizens for Community Values.  That group has staunchly defended the current state law on the books that restricts marriage to a man and a woman.  Spokesman Phil Burress says his group is prepared to defend natural marriage now and in the future.

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