Monday, September 20, 2004

Ohio Gay 'Marriage' Ban Called a 'Sure Bet'

Ban on gay marriages looking like a sure bet
Monday, September 20, 2004
Sandy Theis
Plain Dealer Bureau Chief

Columbus- A self-described Christian from Botkins supports a constitutional ban on gay marriage, saying, "It's in the Bible. It should be in the constitution."
A Cleveland retiree worries that gay marriages will lead to more gay adoptions and insists that children fare better in households with "normal" parents.
A customer service representative from Westlake fears that gay marriage will pave the way for polygamy.
These responses were part of a statewide survey of likely voters that showed support for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a ratio of more than 2 to 1.
Commissioned by The Plain Dealer and Conducted Sept. 10-14, the poll found that 64 percent of the 1,500 people surveyed favored the proposed ban, 30 percent opposed it and 6 percent were undecided. The measure enjoyed strong support from all ages, races and geographic regions of Ohio.
The poll has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points and was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C.
Joanne Daniel, a 54-year-old respondent from Westlake, gave voice to a sentiment expressed by many when she said, "It's simple: I believe the foundation of our society is marriage between one man and one woman."
She believes that some same-sex couples are capable of a loving relationship, but draws the line at allowing them to marry.
"It just isn't right," said Daniel, a customer service representative. "If they say a marriage is between people who love each other, what's to stop them from saying a marriage can be between two women and one man?"
Ohio is among 11 states where voters are expected to face a referendum on gay marriage Nov. 2 and simultaneously make their choice for president.
Although Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and Republican President George Bush both oppose gay marriage, experts agree that Bush stands to benefit more by having the issue on the ballot.
"The most likely impact will be on turnout," said John Green, director of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. "I think this issue will bring out a fairly diverse group of people, but on balance, the conservative Christians would probably dominate. That helps President Bush."
Many evangelical voters stayed home in 2000, and their absence is often cited as a main reason Bush lost the popular vote.
This year, Bush has courted evangelicals with his call to amend the U.S. Constitution to include a gay-marriage ban. Even though Kerry opposes gay marriage, he supports civil unions and disagrees with Bush on the need for a federal amendment.
Southeast Ohio is home to many of the Buckeye state's social conservatives, but the region's high unemployment and poverty have Kerry targeting them with an economic message.
According to the poll, however, Bush is winning Appalachia by 20 points, and the gay-marriage ban had its strongest showing of anywhere in Ohio.
Nearly 70 percent of the southeastern Ohioans surveyed said they would vote for the amendment, 24 percent opposed it and 6 percent remained undecided.
In Northeast Ohio, home to the largest bloc of Democratic voters, the amendment has the least support, but was still favored by 61 percent of those surveyed. An additional 33 percent oppose it and 6 percent are undecided.
Opponents have stepped up efforts to bill the measure as anti-business, noting that Ohio's proposed ban would prevent public colleges, such as Cleveland State University, and municipalities, such as Cleveland Heights, from continuing to offer domestic partner benefits.
Green, however, doubts they'll succeed.
"Ohio is a very conventional place," Green said. "It would be very difficult to imagine this proposition losing."
Although it has not yet officially qualified for the ballot, it appears all but certain to make it.
Supporters believe it is necessary to ensure that judges don't toss out Ohio's existing same-sex marriage ban.
Opponents counter that it's unnecessary, especially in light of a state law that already restricts marriage to one man and one woman.
"This is about politics," said Seth Kilbourn, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, one of the main national groups supporting gay marriage.
"Maybe we can't draw a direct line linking this to [Bush political strategist] Karl Rove, but we can connect the dots," he said.
Among the dots: Ohio joins other battleground states, such as Michigan and Oregon, with anti-gay ballot issues - even though each already has a state ban on same-sex unions.
And Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell used a recent fund-raising letter to boast, "I am working closely with state and national religious leaders to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage."
Phil Burress, a national anti-gay leader, insists that presidential politics played no role in his decision to pursue the Ohio amendment.
Still, he cites a recent poll that showed 22 percent of those surveyed nationwide would be more likely to vote if a gay marriage amendment were on their state's ballot. And the vast majority of the anticipated new voters favored Bush over Kerry, he said.
Neither side asserts that gay marriage is among voters' top concerns, and both agree with polls that show the issue is dwarfed by issues such as jobs, Iraq and health care.
None of the likely voters interviewed said the proposed amendment would sway their presidential vote.
At least one voter surveyed - Kay Buckner of Tiffin - opposes the proposed ban but supports Bush.
"I don't believe that because you're gay, you can't have a meaningful relationship that deserves recognition," she said.
Buckner, 58, is a retired teacher who bases her opinion, in part, on a belief that people are born gay.
"Nobody would choose to be that," she said. "If you're gay, admitting it in public puts you under scrutiny and exposes you to all kinds of possible discrimination."
Burress disputes that the issue is divisive to America or harmful to gays.
So far, he said, five states have passed measures to ban same-sex unions with support ranging from 67 percent (Nevada) to 71 percent (Missouri).
"This tells me this is an issue that unifies and unites America," Burress said.
Green offered a different theory: "Part of what's happening here is this issue has been thrust on the agenda very suddenly, and I think a lot of people are reacting in a way that many of us do when confronted with a new idea, and that's to go back to the old idea in a very strong way."
George Dietz, who retired from the city of Cleveland's Safety Department, said he was raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong and maintains that belief today.
"They're even allowing them [gay couples] to adopt children," said Dietz, who plans to support the ban. "I don't want a little boy to be in a household with two men. He should be with normal parents."
Anthony Monnin, a 22-year-old from Botkins, says his support for the ban is rooted in the Bible.
"I'm a Christian, and I feel that it's stressed in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman."