Click past the orange Squiggle of Squabble to read about Ohio's most surprising gay rights struggle.
Ian James, executive director of Freedom Ohio, the group promoting a referendum this year, said they've already collected far more than the 386,000 signatures needed to put the matter on the ballot.
But the more established gay marriage organizations urge caution. “All the facts show 2014 is not the year,” said Michael Premo, campaign manager of a coalition, Why Marriage Matters Ohio, that opposes the vote. “If this amendment goes forward and fails, which we expect it will, it will be a boost in momentum for opponents of marriage equality.” Evan Wolfson, president of the national advocacy group Freedom to Marry, agrees.“We believe that if you’re going to put yourself you want to make sure you can win.”
Supporters such as Mr. James believe that the initiative will drive voter turnout in districts where incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich is vulnerable. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted just last week shows the race tightening, with Kasich leading Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald by only 43 percent to 38 percent.
James believes his more established colleagues are overly fearful. "These folks are unfortunately knee-deep in a negative quagmire,” said James. “We don’t make progress by sowing fear into the hearts of our biggest supporters.”
After a recent string of favorable court rulings in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia, where judges overturned same-sex marriage bans, many gay rights advocates see their best opportunity for victory in the courts — or perhaps in the electorate of 2016, where voter turnout will likely increase because of the presidential election.
They may have a point. A Cleveland couple of 28 years who married in New York two years ago, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the same sex ban because it denies them the ability to enroll their 7-year-old daughter in an Obamacare Family Plan. They filed briefs February 18, 2014, and the case will be hear by Bush '43 appointee Christopher Boyko in Cleveland.
Ohio was one of 11 states that passed same sex marriage bans (by double digits) in 2004. But even Republicans concede the battleground has changed.
“There’s been a fundamental political shift between 2004 and 2014,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who consults with the American Civil Liberties Union on the politics of same-sex marriage.
But other Republicans believe it will energize the conservative base. “I think there’s great peril in them putting this on the ballot for their whole ticket,” said Matt Borges, executive director of the Ohio Republican Party. “You may awaken the sleeping giant.”
One thing is clear: all eyes will be on Ohio in the coming months to see how the strategizing and prognosticating will play out.