A conversation with the candidates
Surveys of statewide office seekers have a wide range of responses
Ohio statewide candidates answering surveys on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues gave answers ranging from �abomination� to full support of marriage equality.
The Gay People�s Chronicle sent surveys to all of the candidates for statewide office. The questions were designed to give insight into the candidates� familiarity and comfort level with LGBT constituents, as well as predict their performance on LGBT policy issues.
The Chronicle is not endorsing any candidates in the primaries, instead providing an opportunity for readers to become familiar with each of them in as close to their own words as possible.
Mike DeWine, Republican, incumbent: No response.
William G. Pierce, Republican: No response.
David R. Smith, Republican: Could not reach him. The Ohio Republican Party has no contact information.
Sherrod Brown, Democrat, current District 13 U.S. representative:
�I am fully and completely in support of [same-sex] civil marriage,� wrote Brown. �In my view, there is no reason why the same legal benefits extended to opposite sex couples should not be extended to loving, committed same-sex couples.�
Brown also supports legislation to end federal taxation of domestic partner benefits, and to give non-citizen domestic partners the same residency and citizenship rights and benefits that married couples have.
He says public schools should have policies protecting LGBT students from harassment and discrimination in order to receive federal funds, and he supports legislation against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Brown says the federal government should also recognize state civil unions and domestic partnerships for federal benefits and taxes.
�I was one of fewer than 70 representatives to vote against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 because I believe the federal government should not discriminate in the administration of public programs on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,� Brown wrote. �During my time on the Hill, I also cosponsored legislation that would grant same and opposite sex domestic partners of federal employees the same benefits to legal spouses of federal employees . . . And of course, in 2004, I voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment.�
Brown defines civil rights as �Equal opportunity and treatment for all individuals, regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.�
Merrill �Sam� Keiser, Jr., Democrat:
�I love the homosexual person as a fellow human being who is made in the image of God, but I do not accept or condone the homosexual behavior as an acceptable lifestyle,� Keiser wrote.
Keiser opposes legislation against employment discrimination by of sexual orientation and gender identity, and opposes requiring public schools to have policies protecting LGBT students in order to receive federal funds.
He opposes legislation to end federal taxation of domestic partner benefits, and opposes equality to married couples in immigration and citizenship applications.
�Homosexuality is not a �right� or a �protected class,� � Keiser wrote. �Homosexuality is first and foremost an abomination in God�s eyes,� very similar to abortion, which he considers murder. �Whole societies have been destroyed because of this lifestyle. Think Sodom and Gomorrah. I do not want my society to continue down the road to sure destruction because of its acceptance of a small, but influential minority.�
Governor and Lt. Governor
Bryan E. Flannery and Frank M. Stams, Democrats: No response.
Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher, Democrats: No response.
J. Kenneth Blackwell and Thomas Raga, Republicans: No response.
Jim Petro and Joy Padgett, Republicans: No response.
James Lundeen, M.D. and Richard Manuel, Independents:
Lundeen defines civil rights as �three absolute rights: right of personal property, right of personal liberty and right of personal security. These pertain to all persons.�
Asked if he considers LGBT people to be part of the coalition needed to win the election, Lundeen wrote, �I need support from all Ohio citizens in my election.�
Lundeen supports civil unions and says he would sign orders barring discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity in state employment.
Lundeen said, �Laws should protect all persons from harassment and bullying. I would veto any law which excludes LGBT students.�
Lundeen recognizes that Ohio is one of only four states that does not allow transsexuals to correct their birth certificate after surgery. Asked for his opinion on it, he replied, �This is complicated and the best answer may be a history of sex marker and date of change. Very interesting question. No easy answer.�
Lundeen opposes a law restricting LGBT adoption and foster parenting saying, �I would veto such a restrictive law biased against LGBT persons.�
To the LGBT community at this point in the election, Lundeen says, �caveat emptor and good luck.�
Tim Grendell, Republican: No response.
Betty Montgomery, Republican: No response.
Subodh Chandra, Democrat, former Cleveland law director:
�You are part of the last frontier in civil rights in America,�says Chandra to the LGBT community. �Regrettably, it is still acceptable in many circles to express prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. Eventually, prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people will become as socially unacceptable and widely viewed as wrong as discrimination against African-Americans, or the visually impaired. And people will look back on this era in which hate mongers still have license to peddle their venom and say, �What was wrong with those people? What were they thinking?� I stand ready to speak out and make that day come sooner.�
Chandra defines civil rights as �Equality of opportunity and access without regard to immutable and irrelevant characteristics.�
Asked if he believes that rights for LGBT people are civil rights, Chandra responded, �Yes.�
Chandra said he has LGBT people in his circle of family, friends and acquaintances, and adds that LGBT people are �an important constituency within the Democratic and general electorate� and that he needs LGBT support to win election.
Attorneys general do not make policy. However, they have political capital that can be used for LGBT people.
�Anytime the LGBT community asks me to stand up for human rights and the dignity of LGBT people to live free from discrimination, I will,� Chandra wrote. �In fact, I suspect that I will often do so when not asked.�
Attorneys general may also be required to represent the state in litigation that directly impacts the lives of LGBT people and their families.
�When a lawyer�s duty conflicts with the lawyer�s personal beliefs, duty prevails, just as is true with other fiduciaries like physicians,� Chandra wrote.
�Regrettably,� Chandra wrote, Ohio�s constitution now codifies discrimination, and �absent a strong federal constitutional basis for overturning Ohio�s discriminatory provision, however, the attorney general�s job would be to give life to the �people�s will� as expressed through that amendment, even with the narrowest interpretation to ensure the least discriminatory impact.�
Marc E. Dann, Democrat, current District 32 state senator:
�Throughout my career, I have stood as an unwavering voice for tolerance and diversity,� wrote Dann. �I have been a strong and consistent ally of the LGBT community. More than that, I have risen to defend these principles, even when it wasn�t easy or politically convenient. In 2004, I stood up to intolerance and opposed Issue 1. In 1996, I ignored political convenience and opposed [the federal] DOMA. As attorney general, I will be relentless in defending the fundamental rights of all Ohioans.�
Dann defined civil rights as �the fundamental rights of Americans to live safe, happy, and productive lives free from the burdens of hate and discrimination.�
Dann believes rights for LGBT people are civil rights, and includes LGBT people in his circle of family, friends and acquaintances.
Dann wrote, �LGBT voters are an important part of the coalition working to bring about change in November. LGBT voters have an important stake in this election, having uniquely felt the twin chills of economic stagnation and social intolerance under Republican rule.�
�I will spend my political capital in support of an open and tolerant government that works to attract the best and brightest citizens to Ohio,� wrote Dann. �As attorney general, I will oppose mean-spirited measures that seek to punish members of the LGBT community for short-term political gain. These tactics damage all citizens and brand Ohio with a negative reputation as a state that does not welcome creativity or difference.�
On representing the state in matters impacting LGBT people and families, Dann wrote, �The Ohio attorney general has a constitutional duty to enforce the law. However, he or she can also serve as a guiding voice toward a more open and tolerant public policy. I have been such a voice as a state senator and will continue to be such a voice as attorney general.�
Mary Taylor, Republican: No response.
Barbara Sykes, Democrat, current District 44 state representative:
�As auditor, in examining state, county, and local entities, I would ensure that as part of every audit there be a thorough review of anti-discrimination policies,� wrote Sykes.
Sykes defines civil rights as �the inalienable rights and freedoms afforded individuals in the United States that allow all citizens an equal voice through such avenues as, among others, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to vote.�
Sykes says rights for LGBT people are civil rights, adding, �Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of any individual are denied or imposed upon because of their membership in a particular group or class. The rights of LGBT people are civil rights because they have been and still are denied in some cases on the basis of their sexual orientation.�
�I ask the LGBT community to support my candidacy for state auditor because I believe this office is perhaps the most important in restoring Ohioans� trust in state government. A strong, independent auditor is essential to preserving the integrity of our state government.�
Secretary of State
Greg Hartmann, Republican: No response.
Jennifer L. Brunner, Democrat, former Franklin County common pleas judge:
�The secretary of state must administer fair elections,� wrote Brunner. �I pledge to do that. I will not take a stand on issues or candidates as has been past practice, such as using the office to campaign for State Issue 1, the gay marriage ban in the Ohio Constitution. I will enforce in hiring and appointment practices, nondiscrimination that includes recognition of equal rights for LGBT citizens. I will do my part to foster understanding and equal rights for LGBT individuals in all that I do as the next secretary of state.�
Brunner noted that she has had LGBT people in her circle of family, friends and acquaintances for more than 25 years.
�Unfortunately, in the 1980s I lost three friends to AIDS,� she added.
Brunner wrote that she has two openly LGBT people in �key positions� in her campaign: the LGBT statewide coordinator and events coordinator.
She defines civil rights as �rights guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of age, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or identification, or religion.� She believes rights for LGBT people are civil rights.
Brunner says LGBT people should support her election because, �Fairness is my utmost goal. I want an election system in this state that people trust and that the rest of the nation respects. I will do this for all people of the state of Ohio without regard to political affiliation or other differences between persons.�
Jennette B. Bradley, Republican: No response.
Sandra O�Brien, Republican: No response.
Richard Cordray, Democrat, current Franklin County treasurer:
Cordray, who is an attorney, wrote that the LGBT community should support his election because �I have devoted considerable time and energy to the cause of civil rights, including extensive pro bono legal work on behalf of the LGBT community on issues ranging from hate crimes to civil rights and anti-discrimination matters. In 2000, I received the Human Rights Campaign�s Michael Howard Greer Award as Humanitarian of the Year for work promoting greater tolerance and understanding in our communities.�
Cordray defines civil rights as �Having the right to equality in our democracy, in our economy, and in our society, and to be regarded as and treated with respect as the equal of all others regardless of background or circumstances.�
Cordray includes LGBT people in his circle of family, friends and acquaintances, including �one of [his] close friends,� and says rights for LGBT people are civil rights.
The treasurer is not a policy maker, but Cordray wrote that he will use his political capital to �Treat people fairly, set an example in how I conduct myself and my office, and advocate for greater tolerance and understanding for all Ohioans regardless of background or circumstances, just as I have always done.�
Ohio Supreme Court
Terrence O�Donnell, Republican, incumbent:
O�Donnell did not respond to this year�s candidate survey but responded in 2004 to nearly identical questions, which are restated here.
He wrote in 2004 said there are no LGBT people in his circle of friends that he knows of, adding, �I don�t include or exclude people based on that.�
O�Donnell defines civil rights as �those to which a person is entitled by the Constitution or by statute.� He said he doesn�t see any class distinction or segregation based on sexual orientation as far as the Constitution is concerned. [This was before the Ohio marriage ban amendment passed, later in 2004.] �Everyone is entitled to equal protection,� said O�Donnell, adding that he would rule on statutes that do not include specific mention of sexual orientation or gender identity on a case-by-case basis.
�I�m not looking to expand or restrict the law,� said O�Donnell. �That�s to be done by the legislature, not judicial fiat.�
O�Donnell said he believes the Ohio Constitution should be more inclined to preserve the intentions of the framers.
�It�s not living and breathing,� O�Donnell said. �Judges are not representatives. They don�t represent constituencies. The oath is to the Constitution.�
William M. O�Neill, Democrat, current 11th District Ohio Court of Appeals judge:
O�Neill instructed the Chronicle to use his 2004 survey answers.
He is a maverick among judicial candidates in that he believes that judges� opinions on issues should be known, and he is quick to offer his.
O�Neill is also refusing all campaign contributions and endorsements.
�Let�s talk about Issue 1,� said O�Neill before the Ohio marriage ban amendment passed. �The people who wrote the second sentence should be taken outside and horsewhipped. It�s unreadable and makes no sense.�
�We learned in Brown v. Board of Education that separate is never equal, and why is it of my concern what someone�s lifestyle is in their home?�
�Issue 1 will be examining everyone�s lifestyle and I am offended by that,� said O�Neill. �Whether or not it is constitutional will have to wait for another day.�
O�Neill believes that in the end, none of the �defense of marriage� actions taken by anti-gays will be held constitutional.
�They are attempting to draw a line of discrimination between married heterosexuals and the rest of the world.�
A.J. Wagner, Democrat, current Montgomery County common pleas judge:
�I have an established track record and commitment to serving the LGBT community,� said Wagner. �I have supported LGBT events and issues, where appropriate as a judge, in Montgomery County for over twenty years.�
Wagner includes LGBT people in his circle of family, friends and acquaintances, including his current campaign treasurer.
�As Montgomery County Auditor, I made all leave available (funeral, sick, etc.) to LGBT employees in my office,� Wagner wrote.
Wagner defines civil rights as �protections for all Ohioans that are guaranteed in our state and federal constitutions. Citizens deserve to feel safe at home, work, and in the community throughout Ohio.�
Asked if rights for LGBT people are civil rights, Wagner said, �All Ohioans should be treated equally before the law.�
�The Ohio Constitution is a sacred document that protects precious freedoms and rights, but also sets forth clear responsibilities,� wrote Wagner. �The Ohio Constitution should not be politicized or compromised by groups interested in limiting freedom, demonizing law abiding citizens, or weakening protections for all Ohioans from discrimination, violence, or harassment.�
�I will not be an activist justice,� said Wagner, �but I will be an active justice. Our current Supreme Court continues to legislate from the bench and compromises its independence to the executive and legislative branches too frequently.�
Ohio Supreme Court
Ben Espy, Democrat, former Columbus-area state senator:
Espy believes that the Ohio Constitution is �a living document to be interpreted in the language and scientific understanding of today.�
Asked if he believes that LGBT Ohioans are equal under Ohio law to their non-LGBT counterparts, Espy wrote, �No, but they should.�
Espy says he includes LGBT people in his circle of family, friends and acquaintances and that rights for LGBT people are civil rights.
Given opportunity to say anything he wants to LGBT voters, Espy said, �I believe all human beings should be given the protections guaranteed by our Constitution.�
Peter M. Sikora, Democrat, current Cuyahoga County juvenile court judge:
Asked if he believes that Ohio law treats LGBT and non-LGBT Ohioans equally, Sikora answered, �No. Issue One is a classic example.�
Sikora defines civil rights as �those rights guaranteed all citizens by the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Ohio.�
Sikora includes LGBT people in his circle of family, friends and acquaintances.
�The Ohio Constitution should be viewed as a living document to accommodate the evolution of science, community standards and other changing factors,� wrote Sikora.
�I believe that throughout my entire career in public service, I have demonstrated a genuine commitment to fairness and equality for all. I have been grateful for the past support I have received from Ohio�s LGBT community and I hope I have earned its continued support in my campaign for justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio,� Sikora concluded.
Robert R. Cupp, Republican, current Third Ohio District Court of Appeals judge:
Cupp did not answer the survey, instead responding, �The campaign has carefully reviewed the survey and due to the nature of the questions asked and the issues presented, Judge Cupp is unable to complete this document . . . The Code of Judicial Conduct specifically prohibits jurists from answering these questions.�