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Same-sex marriage advocates debate whether they have time and money
Two sides both support changing Ohio's gay-marriage ban, but divide over the question of just when

Karen Kasler
T-shirts pushing same-sex marriage in Ohio.
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The debate rages on over legalized same-sex marriage – between two groups that both adamantly support the idea. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler sat down with the leaders of those groups for their first joint interview, and found it’s not about whether they support the issue – it’s about whether voters will next year.

LISTEN: Kasler and the split among same-sex marriage advocates

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If a same-sex marriage amendment is on the ballot next year, it will be there on the 10-year anniversary of the approval of an amendment that defined marriage in Ohio as between only one man and one woman.

Ian James heads FreedomOhio, which had pushed the amendment this year and now for the 2014 ballot. He says polling trends show a move toward support and many activists are tired of waiting. 
“For a lot of folks, it’s a matter of ‘We’ve got to do (it).’ We’ve got to put this together. There’s a fierce urgency of now.”

Timing is everything
But the state’s leading LGBT-rights group, Equality Ohio, is much more cautious about the timing – and about its support of an issue next year.

Executive Director Elyzabeth Holford says activists will get “one shot at this.” She says winning a same-sex marriage campaign takes polls showing 51percent support, a strategy to turn out supporters and to combat opponents, and lots of planning. And Holford says organizations can’t be pressured into supporting a campaign when it doesn’t appear to be a winner, especially with the hopes of same-sex couples in Ohio and the expectations of people around the nation on the line. 

“I was sort of vilified in the press for a while because I wouldn’t sign on to (a) 2013 (campaign). Well, 2013 was unrealistic. It was an arbitrary date to set. I’m not saying 2014 is arbitrary – there’s potential for 2014. But we need to not just do our homework, but have our boots on the ground.” 

And money is everything else
The other thing any winning campaign needs is money. James says there’s plenty of time to raise the many millions it will take to win. 

“People are running for governor right now, and they’re going to be running for the next 16 months and have the time to raise that kind of money. And we have that time to raise money as well.”

Holford says $9 million was spent on a losing same-sex marriage campaign in Maine – a state with a tenth of the population of Ohio. 
“If you take that cost-per-person in that population, that’s $6.69 per person,” she told James, who counters,  “That’s not the way you buy TV in Ohio.” 

Holdford acknowledges the parallels aren’t perfect, “but I’m just saying it’s a good example of what was spent in a state with a population of that size.”

As for whether Equality Ohio will campaign for the amendment if it’s actually on the ballot next year – Holford talks about the necessity to achieve and hold a 51 percent support rate in polls, “so we know that we can achieve that and hold that.” 

James was singled out by national gay-rights activists last month as being an outlier and pursuing this campaign for selfish interests.

James says he and his husband have given $450,000 to the campaign and are its largest donors – and simply want their union and others to be recognized by the state. 


Listener Comments:

I am a volunteer with Freedom To Marry and we are out collecting signatures all the time. If you want something to be done you take action and that is what we are doing. I suggest that people get active and stop causing dissension among our community because that is only helping the bigots who will be working against us.

Posted by: Shannon Glatz (Akron, Ohio) on July 21, 2013 10:07AM
"But we need to not just do our homework, but have our boots on the ground.” ~ Elyzabeth Holford, Executive Director Equality Ohio

Freedom Ohio's boots have been on the ground for over a year now. Think about what we could accomplish together, if Equality Ohio would put on their boots.

Posted by: Liberty Manos (Akron, Ohio) on July 21, 2013 1:07AM
Doesn't it make sense for Equality Ohio to join Freedom Ohio's efforts? Can we not work in tandem to reach out to fellow Ohioans, collect signatures, to raise awareness and the necessary funds to pass this initiative? Think of what these two organizations could do together, as a team! Equality Ohio has been invited to join this campaign. Perhaps EO declined because this is the task they were created to do after the 2004 marriage ban was implemented in Ohio. Maybe it's difficult to watch newer organization step up and do the work that they have been unwilling or unable to do in the past nine years?

Posted by: Liberty Manos (Akron, Ohio) on July 21, 2013 1:07AM
Going another year means that many more young voters and that many more old voters who have died off. The realities of life.

Posted by: Dr. Steve Cochran (Bath, OH) on July 20, 2013 6:07AM
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