Evolutionary biologist Jeremy Yoder who blogs over at Denim and Tweed just posted what I consider to be one of the best narratives of a volunteer for a campaign to defeat one of these repugnant state constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage, this one in Minnesota. He recounts some of his experiences and conversations with Minnesotans who, as he says, are capable of being "astonishingly, densely homophobic, even when they're being Minnesota nice." It's worth the full read.
Ohio may have it's own gay marriage battle brewing, but possibly not until next year. Ballot language was just approved last week so that the Freedom to Marry Coalition is allowed to begin circulating petitions, hopefully gathering the 385,253 valid signatures needed for the issue to be placed before the voters on the November 2013 ballot. Why use the ballot initiative when it seems like an uphill battle? Well, the only way to allow gay marriage would be to repeal the constitutional amendment passed in 2004.
In 2004 62% of Ohioans voted in favor of enshrining discrimination in our state's constitution by banning same-sex marriages and civil unions. It has often been cited as one of the most restrictive amendments in the nation. It reads:
Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.A 2006 analysis on the effects of marriage equality on children reported in the journal Pediatrics by James G. Pawelski et al. notes the following on the Ohio law:
As a result, judges around the state have dismissed or reduced charges in domestic violence cases, because Ohio's domestic violence law recognizes the relationship between an unmarried offender and victim as one “approximating the significance or effect of marriage,” thereby representing a direct conflict with the amendment's prohibition against such recognition, thus rendering it unenforceable. [Their reference was this Cincinnati Post article]It's clear that the language of the 2004 amendment, specificially "legal status ... that intends to approximate...", has caused the most problems. This can be interpreted widely to include any contract my partner and I create that would "approximate" the qualities normally attributed to marriage. What exactly does this mean? It could be a will, or a private contract, or a medical directive like a power of attorney. And some judges have clearly taken it to mean unmarried partners in domestic violence cases do not require the same protections as married ones.
Unknown to the authors of the cited study above, Municipal Judge Paul Spurgeon of Mount Vernon, my adopted hometown since 2007, went so far as to deny several temporary protection orders in domestic violence cases, often a very necessary and important step regardless of the sexual orientation of those involved, based on his belief that granting temporary protection under the "person living as a spouse" condition would mean recognition of same-sex marriage. Motion denied. (I'm honestly surprised there wasn't more outrage over this.)
I guess the point is that this law is doing real harm and causing a fair amount of chaos in some court proceedings related to domestic violence. But... the effort to repeal the ban and replace it with one that allows marriage faces its own chaos. Apparently, not all organizations are on board and the focus is split, with critics suggesting we should put our energy into obtaining housing and employment nondiscrimination rights first. ("No state has passed gay marriage that has not first had protections in housing and employment," or so I heard on NPR this morning.) And then there's the local perspective. Rick Santorum won my county's Republican primary, but I do have hope that the pendulum is slowly swinging the other direction. This local news story from Marietta, a small town on the Ohio River in Southeast Ohio not known for being liberal got the opinion of four locals. The only dissenting voice was, naturally, from the Catholic priest. The others, ages 19 to 42, said they support the measure and that it didn't matter to them if gay people can get married or not. I'm not sure if the petition efforts will amount to anything and then if the general public will actually vote for the measure in 2013, but, inspired by others, I might put in my own volunteer time.
Pawelski, J. (2006). The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children PEDIATRICS, 118 (1), 349-364 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2006-1279