As marriage equality proponents, organized as Freedom to Mary Ohio, prepare to submit ballot petitions to Ohio attorney general Mike Dewine on Monday, supporters of marriage equality will gather tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. at the Free Stamp at East 9th and Lakeside, for a Rally for Marriage Equality. That will be followed by a mass wedding of both straight and gay couples at the Galleria to spotlight the disparity in marriage rights.
According to the event’s press release,
This rally was spearheaded on Facebook by the “Support Gay Marriage in Ohio” page which has over 198,000 fans. This page is the brainchild of Adam Hoover, a 17-year old from Harrison, Ohio, who has organized previous rallies in Cincinnati and Columbus. A group of local activists in Cleveland jumped on board to organize on the ground and help make this event a huge success.
The rally will feature speakers from LGBT organizations, church groups, elected officials, and others.
The movement for marriage equality in Ohio has gone from 0 to 100 mph in a little over two months. When Ian James, a gay man who owns a Columbus-based company that manages ballot petition drives — he worked on the SB 5 and HB 194 repeal campaigns — decided in January it was time to repeal Ohio’s 2004 Defense of Marriage Amendment and make marriage equality the law of Ohio, the issue wasn’t on the front burner for the state’s established LGBT groups — or anyone, really.
It is now. As an offshoot of a national effort called Freedom to Marry, which buttonholes elected officials to get their positions on marriage equality, James recruited a few friends and acquaintances in central Ohio and threw up a Facebook page to launch the process of getting the issue on the ballot.
“I’ve never experienced anything with this explosive growth behind it,” he says. “It went from five people to 100 people to 200 to 500 to over 1,000” within a month.
Those volunteers collected the 1,000 signatures needed to submit initial summary language to attorney general Mike DeWine for approval, the first step in being able to circulate petitions to collect the 385,000 valid signatures needed to snag a ballot spot.
The initial petitions were submitted in late February; DeWine rejected the first summary two weeks ago. James says that was both expected and usual — it happened with SB 5 and HB 194, as well as the personhood and right-to-work initiatives currently gathering signatures.
“We tested some theories in our summary on language to see what the attorney general would accept and what he would reject,” says James. “We re-did the petitions utilizing that.”
DeWine’s issues were primarily technical. The first summary was longer than the amendment it seeks to repeal and it referenced law not in that amendment. The second summary adds the stipulation that the marriage is between any two adults who are not already married to someone else, or are siblings or first cousins.
“Guess we lost the family vote there,” quips James.
Circulating a second round of preliminary petitions helped grow the volunteer base even more, with at least five volunteers in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The new set of petitions will be submitted Monday with more than 1,300 pre-validated signatures from more than 46 counties (James says they were ready to go yesterday, but with President Obama scheduling a Columbus appearance to talk about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, they figured he would suck up all the attention.)
The group, official dubbed the Freedom to Marry Coalition & Committee (freedomohio.org), is aiming for the November 2013 ballot.
“It would be very difficult to get everything organized in time for 2012 ballot,” says James. “We’re not seeking a ballot to help or hurt any candidate. The turnout model for 2013 seems to be a much better model for this effort. 72% comes from 22 urban counties, with a heavier Democratic turnout. And having a dialogue over 19-month period makes sense, you can reach a lot of people.”— Anastasia Pantsios