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November 20, 2009


Bill to repeal Ohio marriage ban introduced in House

Columbus--State Rep. Tyrone Yates has introduced a resolution to put a repeal of Ohio’s marriage ban amendment on the ballot next spring.

Ohio’s constitution can be amended by a ballot measure put there either by the legislature, or by a signature campaign like the one that produced the 2004 ban amendment.

The repeal measure, which Yates introduced November 13, is House Joint Resolution 7. It needs a three-fifths vote in both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s signature to go onto the May 4 primary ballot.

It is not expected to get them. The common wisdom of marriage ban opponents is that Ohioans are not ready to repeal the amendment.

Still, it gets a discussion started around repealing the amendment, and could begin a process where the legislature puts a repeal on the ballot when the time comes, instead of mounting a signature campaign.

Yates, a Cincinnati Democrat, is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2010.

He was a vocal opponent of the 2004 amendment and also led the opposition to the “defense of marriage act” passed by the legislature earlier that year.

“The amendment was ill-considered in the first place,” Yates said, explaining that people voted for it not knowing what it really does.

Yates believes the ban amendment keeps state institutions from offering domestic partner benefits.

It does not, at least at this point. The Ohio Supreme Court has narrowed the amendment to prohibit only same-sex marriage and “marriage substitutes,” which it defines as civil unions. Lawsuits to stop universities from offering partner benefits have failed.

However, Yates believes that voters may not have really wanted to restrict civil unions. He also believes that the resolution calls attention to the fact that merely repealing the amendment does not give same-sex couples marriage equality in Ohio.

Kim Welter of Equality Ohio agrees that is an important message for Ohioans to start getting.

Yates said he hadn’t thought of a proposal to repeal the DOMA law, too, until a reporter asked about it. He voted against that measure in 2004.

Welter is concerned that if Yates is successful in passing his resolution before the necessary work is done, Ohio voters will just re-affirm the 2004 vote.

Welter said the repeal strategy will be discussed at Equality Ohio’s leadership meeting December 5. The organization was founded in the wake of the ban amendment, with a goal of repealing it.

“We appreciate the support,” Welter said, “but repeal is a many, many year process. We will work with Yates to build support for repeal of the amendment down the road.”

Yates said he did not consult with Equality Ohio before introducing the resolution.

“Human rights groups don’t advance causes by putting their finger in the wind,” Yates said. “It’s time to turn public opinion in a different direction.”

Yates said he has been watching the national trends around marriage equality, and was surprised by the outcome in Maine.

“But as courts declare these amendments unconstitutional, we will see a more favorable outcome,” Yates said.

Equality Ohio is also backing the Equal Housing and Employment Act passed by the Ohio House in September. The measure would outlaw discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Welter said that opponents of that bill see it as a “slippery slope to marriage,” but she doesn’t think Yates’ resolution will have any real effect on the Senate’s passage of the bill.

Yates’ resolution has not yet been assigned to a committee at press time.




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