Right Fight, Wrong Time

Ian James, the man who's trying really hard to get marriage equality on the statewide ballot in 2014, is doing so in defiance of basically all other LGBT groups in the state

"Contrary to the assertions made by Ian James in an unapproved statement, there was no agreement reached to put forward a ballot initiative in 2014 or any other specific date," reads a June 5th press release by the activist group Equality Ohio.

"Instead, [James' group] Freedom Ohio and nearly a dozen other leading organizations, agreed to work together to talk to Ohio voters about why marriage matters and strengthen our coalition in the months ahead, reserving judgment on the timing of a ballot initiative until a clear pathway to victory could be determined and carried out."

In other words, James is jumping the gun.

"Ian James must have attended a different meeting than the rest of us," said Marty Rouse, National Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign who attended the statewide meeting to discuss campaign strategies. "Representatives from 11 state and national organizations participated in today's meeting. Ten of them came away with a clear understanding that we would refrain from deciding on timing until it was responsible to do so."

So why is James so eager?

According to stellar reporting by Eric Resnick, James' is in a position to benefit financially from the initiative.

"Ian and his partner Stephen Letourneau run a political consulting firm in Columbus called The Strategy Network.  Most of their clients are corporate. Their last big hit was the management of the petitions that put the casino amendment on the ballot, and that is typical of their work," reads an archived email from Resnick during his investigation.

"Should this thing get to the ballot, Ian, Stephen, and the Strategy Network will oversee every aspect of the campaign, including media buys (where the real money is). Were they to have been able to raise and spend the $10 million they initially hoped for, their take from professional services and commissions would have been at least $1.2 million."

James would receive that money whether or not the amendment is successful.

What's pertinent—and now publicly on record—is that James' group has no buy-in or backing from other major LGBT groups. He's running a rogue outfit for personal gain.

"The math and real scientific polling indicates that if a lot of background work is done and scientific benchmarks hit, Ohio will be ready to repeal the marriage ban amendment in 2016," says Resnick. "and there are efforts brewing to do that.  What Ian is doing is an opportunity for him to pocket a bunch of money for himself, but it puts the real work at risk."

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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