LGBT groups, civil libertarians and legislators are coming together in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus today to announce Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a new statewide effort to educate and persuade Ohioans to support legalizing same-sex marriage.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, explained the campaign’s purpose in a statement: “Why Marriage Matters Ohio aims to encourage neighbor-to-neighbor conversations across the state, inviting people to talk about their own individual journeys toward support of the freedom to marry and their values of respect for commitment and treating others as we’d all want to be treated. Personal stories are the best conversation starter — and conversation is the best way to help people understand that all loving and committed couples in Ohio, gay and non-gay alike, should be able to share in the freedom to marry and the security and meaning marriage brings.”
The campaign involves the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Equality Ohio, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign. The efforts have been endorsed by faith and business community leaders, according to the groups.“Marriage is the ultimate recognition of loving relationships,” State Rep. Denise Driehaus, a Cincinnati Democrat, said in a statement.
In Cincinnati, Driehaus is announcing the campaign with Jim Obergefell, a Cincinnati resident who’s having his marriage recognized on his spouse’s death certificate as a result of a court order in favor of marriage equality. When issuing that court order, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year that deemed the federal government’s anti-gay marriage laws unconstitutional.
Public officials and supporters are lining up in two other Ohio cities to support the campaign: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is speaking in Cleveland, and Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio, is making the announcement in Columbus.
According to a statement issued by the campaign, the effort is partly in response to recent public polling.
The 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found Ohioans evenly divided on same-sex marriage: 47 percent supported it and 47 opposed it. But 51 percent said they oppose amending the state constitution to legalize marriage equality.
Still, the survey findings went against previous polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University, which found a plurality of Ohioans now support allowing same-sex marriages in the state.
Beyond allowing gay couples to share in the same rights as straight couples, same-sex marriages could also boost Ohio’s economic and job growth. A previous study from Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics, LLC, found that Ohio’s gross domestic product, which measures economic worth, would go up by $100-$126 million within three years of same-sex marriage legalization and sustain 740 to 930 jobs within the first year of legalization, 250 to 310 jobs within the second year and 170 to 210 jobs within the third year.
The education push comes in time for a broader effort to legalize same-sex marriage. FreedomOhio originally planned to get the issue on the ballot this year, but it delayed the initiative for the 2014 ballot.