Leaders prepare effort to halt or remove Ohio�s new marriage ban amendment
Columbus--Ohio�s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders have begun a response to the Issue 1 constitutional amendment which, unless stopped by a court, will take effect December 2. The measure, passed by voters last week, bans same-sex marriage, civil unions and benefits to all non-married couples.
Individuals and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the national Lambda Legal Defense are developing strategies to challenge the measure in court.
ACLU Ohio legal director Jeff Gamso said his office gets several calls and emails each day from people worried about losing rights and benefits from it.
�We�re going to fight and it will take time,� said Gamso. He encouraged people to continue contacting him, so he can find an example of real harm to take to court.
�Don�t assume you have lost everything,� said Gamso, �We don�t want universities, for example, ditching their domestic partner benefits before a court tells them they have to.�
Gamso said since no one is sure what the second sentence of the amendment means, courts will make decisions about what it includes �based on their speculation of what it means.�
The sentence bars recognition of �legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.�
Lambda senior counsel Patricia Logue said their priority is to see that the second sentence is interpreted narrowly in order to minimize its impact.
�Nothing approximates marriage except marriage,� said Logue, referring to the amendment�s language. �The other side will be trying to give [the amendment] tentacles and trying to give it more impact that it should have.�
Logue said Lambda�s experience litigating domestic partner cases has shown that anything other than marriage is a �different animal.�
�In this case,� said Logue, �it was sold as a marriage measure, and state courts are generally not looking to send gay couples into a land of no rights.�
Logue also encourages anyone who believes they are harmed by the amendment to contact her office.
Repeal effort begins
LGBT leaders have begun to come together to plan a campaign to repeal the amendment.
Following a meeting of community leaders, the Lesbian Gay Service Center of Cleveland issued a statement saying, �We have committed to work together to achieve equality--no matter how long it takes.�
�We will show the proponents of the amendment that we will not be intimidated, that we have not been defeated, and that we will eventually be treated as equal before the law,� the statement continues.
Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson issued a statement telling the LGBT community, �Because the amendment was so vicious, it has given us a mechanism for maintaining a dialogue on gay rights.�
�This is the beginning of something, not the end,� said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force director of organizing and training Dave Fleischer.
�[Same-sex marriage] was used to stigmatize gay people,� said Fleischer, �and it will keep coming up like the abortion issue does.�
Fleisher said the passage of amendments in 11 states means that LGBT people will achieve marriage equality �later rather than sooner and in fewer places,� but as long as some states do not amend their constitutions, there will still be same-sex marriage.
�It depends on how long a view you take,� said Fleischer, who described a �long term view� as 60 to 90 years.
�But if we don�t do better [defeating amendments] by 2006, the landscape will be different,� said Fleischer. �I am very concerned about the issue in the short term.�
Fleischer said the lesson to be learned in Ohio is to start campaigning for the battles ahead.
�Ohio LGBTs need to get serious in the scale on which campaigns are operated,� said Fleischer.
�A campaign at the scale needed to defeat the amendment would have raised $5-10 million, had 10,000 volunteers, and identified pro-gay voters,� said Fleischer. �I know it sounds like a lot, but people can start doing bite-sized chunks of that right now.�
National amendment will be back
National LGBT leaders and allies are discussing plans to respond to the result of the national election and the 11 states where marriage ban amendments passed.
The election was arguably a setback for LBGT equality, as exit polls show that a quarter of the electorate voted on �moral values� which has been interpreted as including opposition to gay marriage.
President Bush�s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, who promoted a federal constitutional amendment against marriage and the state amendments as part of his strategy to rally four million evangelical conservative voters, restated the president�s intention to put a high priority on the federal amendment on the Sunday after the election.
Rove said on NBC�s Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday that Bush will �absolutely� use his second term to push for the federal constitutional amendment.
�If we want to have a hopeful and decent society, we ought to aim for the ideal,� said Rove on Fox, �And the ideal is that marriage ought to be and should be a union of a man and a woman.�
Rove continued, �We cannot allow local activist officials to thumb their nose at 5,000 years of human history and determine that marriage is something else.�
Conservatives flex their muscle
Having the amendments on eleven state ballots gave George W. Bush the conservative voter turnout necessary to win the election.
Exit polls show that voters were highly motivated to vote for Bush around issues of �moral values,� which included gay marriage, abortion, leadership style and his faith-based governance.
�The anti-gays have interpreted this as vindication of their perspective and their political capability,� said Fleischer. �It is dangerous for us to think of them as invincible. They�re not.�
Fleischer said other gains made by the right in this election resulted from the decades they have spent becoming essential to the Republican Party.
�Republicans are not capable of winning majority without them,� said Fleischer.
Fleischer said one of the payoffs for religious conservatives is that they will play a major role in shaping the U.S. Supreme Court.
�I am concerned the Supreme Court will be ruined for our lifetime,� said Fleischer. �Congress is still almost equally divided, but there will be a shift in the balance of institutional power [away from the courts], and this will lead to not being able to get a fair hearing on LGBT issues or an entire range of social justice concerns.�
Religious conservatives are already flexing some of their new political muscle to try to keep Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania from heading the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee that considers nominees to the bench.
Specter, who is pro-choice and has been generally moderate on social issues, said after the election that judges who staunchly oppose abortion would not be likely to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Senate.
That statement has stirred a firestorm of opposition to him by religious conservatives. Groups including the anti-gay Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and Ohio�s Citizens for Community Values--all of which also led the campaigns to pass marriage amendments--have begun mobilizing their members against Specter, causing him to re-evaluate his position.
�Specter has tried to distance himself from what many took as a warning last week that the president not nominate social conservatives for the courts,� said CCV president Phil Burress in a statement rallying members to oppose Specter.
The Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Specter�s re-election bid. Spokesperson Chris Barron said he was confident Specter would weather the storm and be installed as Judiciary chair.
Senate moves to the right
Barron said that he believes there are still enough votes in the Senate to stop the federal marriage amendment when it comes back.
Republicans won an additional four seats in the Senate giving them 55 seats.
Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who is said to have worked very hard behind the scenes on LGBT equality, was defeated. In every other seat Republicans gained, victory went to anti-gay religious conservatives.
In Oklahoma, Republican Tom Coburn won a seat in the Senate. In 2001, Coburn was picked by President Bush to head the presidential AIDS commission despite strong protest.
While a member of the House of Representatives, Coburn said high school girls should not be allowed to use the restroom in groups because of the �problem� of lesbianism.
Coburn told fellow Republicans that gays and lesbians are �the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today.�
South Carolinians elected Republican Jim DeMint to the U.S. Senate. He campaigned that �single women with children and homosexuals should not be allowed to teach in high schools.���������