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. “It's time for Ohio to get down to business and start respecting all marriages.”
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.
Ohio voters overwhelmingly support laws that would protect gays and lesbians from job discrimination, but even more Ohioans mistakenly think such laws are already in place, according to the 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.
The poll found 68 percent of Ohio voters favor laws that protect gays and lesbians in the workplace. Only 25 percent of respondents voiced opposition.
But about 84 percent incorrectly think legal protections already exist at the state level and 80 percent mistakenly assumed such laws exist at the federal level. Similarly, around four in five people wrongly think it’s already illegal to refuse to rent a home or do business with someone because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
While employment discrimination isn’t tolerated, the poll found Ohioans are evenly divided on whether same-sex marriage should be legal (47 percent to 47 percent) and a slim majority said the state constitution shouldn’t be amended to allow gays and lesbians to marry (51 percent to 45 percent).
The poll was conducted through telephone interviews between Aug. 8 and Aug. 15, sampling 883 registered voters in Ohio with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
The results provide some context for why Ohio’s LGBT groups are currently at odds over whether they should pursue marriage equality. FreedomOhio is aiming to put the issue on the ballot in 2014, but Equality Ohio says employment protections are more politically realistic and should take precedence.
Still, there has been some momentum in favor of marriage equality in the past couple years. A Quinnipiac University poll released on April 19 found 48 percent of Ohio voters support gay marriage and 44 percent oppose it, with a 2.9 percent margin of error. That was a switch from a Dec. 12 poll, which found 47 percent of Ohio voters were against same-sex marriage and 45 percent favored it.
FreedomOhio is currently gathering petition signatures to put same-sex marriage on the ballot. The group was originally aiming to put the issue to a vote in 2013, but it ultimately delayed its efforts by one year.
The Ohio Department of Taxation this week released separate tax forms that will allow gay couples who live in the state but got married in another state to jointly file for taxes at the federal level. But because of Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, same-sex couples won’t be able to jointly file for taxes at the state or local level.
Although the move is being received as a step forward for Ohio’s gay couples, some LGBT groups say the discrepancy between different levels of government shows the need to push for marriage equality in Ohio.
Why Marriage Matters Ohio, which is trying to educate Ohioans on the benefits of same-sex marriage, pointed out the discrepancy in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
“This is why marriage equality matters in Ohio. This is why we’re working to build support for affording all Ohio families the protections and responsibilities that only marriage offers,” wrote Elyzabeth Holdford, executive director of Equality Ohio and board chair of Why Marriage Matters Ohio.
FreedomOhio, which is attempting to get same-sex marriage on the November 2014 ballot, also criticized the discrepancy on Thursday.
“While many will appreciate the extra tax benefits, this separate and unequal treatment of families is unfair, unequal and is not the treatment we seek,” said Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, in a statement. “FreedomOhio is committed to bringing equal rights to all Ohioans.”
Beyond the issue of equal rights, allowing same-sex marriages in Ohio could generate economic activity. A study conducted by Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics, LLC, found marriage equality could produce $100-$126 million in economic growth within three years in the state and $8.2 million in the same time span in Hamilton County.
The new tax form for same-sex couples can be found here.
The debate over same-sex marriage came to the forefront of Ohio’s attorney general race after Democratic candidate David Pepper drew up an online petition calling on Attorney General Mike DeWine to drop a court battle against a local gay couple.
Pepper’s petition is in direct response to the legal battle surrounding Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who legally married in Maryland last year and won legal recognition of their marriage in Arthur’s Ohio death certificate. (Arthur passed away after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate.)
The case originally applied only to Obergefell and Arthur, but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited equal protection grounds to force state officials to acknowledge gay marriages in all Ohio death certificates.
With DeWine’s office acting as the attorneys in the case, the state intends to appeal the ruling.
The attorney general’s office told CityBeat it’s up to the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to decide whether to appeal the ruling. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s office declined to comment on whether DeWine offered legal advice for or against the appeal.
But DeWine previously defended his intention to uphold Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2004.
“Our job is to defend Ohio’s constitution and defend what voters have voted on,” he told WKSU Public Radio.
In his petition, Pepper argues it’s DeWine’s duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the local couple’s court-established marriage rights.
“What a waste of taxpayer dollars, and what a misuse of an office whose duty is to stand up to — not for — the unconstitutional treatment of Ohioans,” the petition reads.
While DeWine and Pepper will face off in the upcoming November ballot, same-sex marriage could appear on the ballot as well — despite disagreement among LGBT groups on the timing.
Pepper’s petition can be read and signed here.
Today's an expensive day for Councilman Chris Seelbach.
That's because Seelbach is writing a check today for $1,218.59 to the city of Cincinnati to get local hyper-conservative "watchdog" group COAST to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., to accept an award for instigating positive change was an unlawful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
As a refresher, we're talking about the trip when Seelbach was one of 10 community leaders around the nation selected to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his accomplishments in protecting the city's LGBT community — particularly through his efforts to extend equal partner health insurance to all city employees, create an LGBT liaison in the city's fire and police departments and requiring anyone accepting city funding to follow a non-discrimination policy — a national recognition of championing Cincinnati's progression toward social justice in the past few years.
In an email from his campaign, he says that the city's law department wants to move forward with the lawsuit because the allegations are so frivolous, but Seelbach decided to just use his own personal money to prevent the city from having to spend close to $30,000 of the same taxpayer money COAST is complaining about to prove that they're wrong.
On Aug. 28, Chris Finney, chief crusader at COAST, sent a letter to the office of the city solicitor alleging that the city had committed a "misapplication of corporate funds" by sponsoring Chris Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., complaining that Seelbach and his staffers "upgraded" their hotel rooms.
Curp says that the rooms weren't only never upgraded — Seelbach and his staffers shared rooms — but that the councilman didn't even request reimbursement for several other eligible expense, like parking, meals and taxi fares — and flew out of Louisville, Ky., to take advantage of cheaper airfare.
City Solicitor John Curp's five-page response to Finney, he refutes every claim made by COAST and ends the letter by citing an Ohio Supreme Court case that effectively ruled that private citizens (like Chris Finney and all the other COASTers) constantly contesting official acts and expenditures doesn't benefit the city and should only be allowed when it could cause serious public injury if ignored. Here's Curp's full response:
Ohioans are moving left on marijuana and same-sex marriage, according to a poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University.
The poll found an overwhelming majority — 87 percent — of Ohioans support legalizing marijuana for medical uses. About 51 percent support allowing adults to legally possess a small amount of the drug. And 83 percent agree marijuana is equally or less dangerous than alcohol.
At the same time, 50 percent of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who do not.
A plurality of voters — 34 percent versus 26 percent — also disapproved of Gov. John Kasich’s handling of abortion. (In the latest state budget, Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature imposed new restrictions on abortions and abortion providers.)
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,370 registered Ohio voters from Feb. 12 to Feb. 17 for the poll, producing a 2.7 percent margin of error.
The findings indicate the state is moving left on the biggest social issues of the day.
In 2004, Ohioans approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Last year, a Saperstein Associates poll conducted for The Columbus Dispatch found 63 percent of Ohioans favor legalizing medical marijuana, but 59 percent said they oppose full-on legalization. (Given the different methodologies, it’s unclear how Saperstein Associates’ results compare to Quinnipiac University’s poll.)
Whether the liberal shift applies to ballot initiatives remains to be seen. This year, two groups aim to get medical marijuana and same-sex marriage on the Ohio ballot.
Contrary to what polling numbers might imply, it currently seems more likely same-sex marriage will end up on the ballot this year. FreedomOhio, which is leading the effort, says it already has the petition signatures required to get the issue on the ballot in November, even though other LGBT groups, including Equality Ohio, say the effort should wait until 2016.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Rights Group admits it doesn’t yet have the signatures required to get medical marijuana on the ballot. The organization has until July to gather 385,247 petition signatures, which in large part must come from at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties. In the very unlikely scenario the Ohio Rights Group gets all the petitions in circulation back with 36 legitimate signatures filled out on each, the organization would have about 246,000 signatures.
Still, with support seemingly growing, it seems unlikely medical marijuana and same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Ohio for much longer.
In two days, the physical space that's housed Cincinnati's Gay and Lesbian Community Center for the past 20 years will be vacant, but the organization won't disappear entirely.
Instead, the Center will become a completely virtual informational resource for the region's LGBT community and act as a funding resource for other Cincinnati organizations.
The Center could not be immediately reached for comment on the closure.
A letter from the board of directors sent out on Oct. 28 announced that the decision to close was based on a need to "evolve with the times." The letter states that the organization will continue to answer emails and voicemails and maintain its popular annual fundraiser, Pride Night at Kings Island, and that the board is working on selecting a public location to hold annual meetings.
Pride Night at Kings Island, which has consistently been the Center's most profitable and popular fundraising effort, brought out record crowds this year.
The private, nonprofit volunteer-run foundation, which has been located in Northside for the past 20 years, uses its profits to provide grant to other Cincinnati-area LGBT groups. The organization's first grant for 2014 will provide Cincinnati Pride with $5,000 to expand promotions for Cincinnati Gay Pride on May 31, 2014, and for the city's celebration of Pride Month, which runs through June.
The mayor and a supermajority of City Council backs efforts to establish a domestic partner registry for same-sex couples in Cincinnati, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office announced Tuesday.
If adopted by the city, the registry will allow same-sex couples to gain legal recognition through the city. That would let same-sex couples apply for domestic partner benefits at smaller businesses, which typically don’t have the resources to verify legally unrecognized relationships, according to Seelbach’s office.
Specifically, the City Council motion asks the city administration to reach out to other cities that have adopted domestic partner registries, including Columbus and eight other Ohio cities, and establish specific guidelines.
Seelbach’s office preemptively outlined a few requirements to sign up: Same-sex couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove strong financial interdependency by showing joint property ownership, power of attorney, a will and other unspecified requirements.
“As a result of a $45 fee to join the registry, we believe this will be entirely budget neutral, meaning it won't cost the city or the taxpayers a single dollar,” Seelbach said in a statement.
If the plan is adopted this year, Cincinnati should gain a perfect score in the next “Municipal Equality Index” from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group that, among other tasks, evaluates LGBT inclusion efforts from city to city. Cincinnati scored a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 rankings, with domestic partner registries valued at 12 points.
Seelbach expects the administration to report back with a full proposal that City Council can vote on in the coming months.
A federal court in Cincinnati could get another chance to advance LGBT rights if it takes up a lawsuit filed Monday that calls on Ohio to recognize the names of married same-sex parents on their adopted children’s birth certificates.
Civil rights attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the couples adopt a child in Ohio.
“Birth certificates are the primary identity document in our society,” Gerhardstein’s firm explained in a statement. “Birth certificates tell the child, ‘these adults are your parents,’ and tell the community that these adults and children are a family. Medical care, access to schools, travel and release of information are all easily accomplished with birth certificates and are constantly burdened without accurate birth certificates. Forcing families to accept incorrect birth certificates imposes life-long harms and is a direct attack on family dignity.”
Although opponents of LGBT rights contend that allowing same-sex couples to adopt could hurt children, the research suggests otherwise.
A Boston University meta-analysis released in March found “children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.” Possibly harmful factors found in the study instead include widespread discrimination and the parents’ limited rights, neither of which can be blamed on same-sex couples.
The complaint filed Monday comes on the heels of recent rulings that advanced same-sex rights in Ohio and across the country.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited constitutional grounds to force state officials to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. That case came about after a same-sex couple in Cincinnati filed for recognition. The Republican-controlled state government, defended by Attorney General Mike DeWine, is appealing the ruling.
That ruling followed a June 26 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and requires the federal government to recognize some same-sex marriages.
In enforcing the ruling, President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday plans to grant sweeping equal protections to married same-sex couples around the country, even those who reside in states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. The Justice Department’s decision applies to courthouse proceedings, prison visits and the compensation of public safety officers’ surviving spouses, among other areas.
At the state level, FreedomOhio is working to get same-sex marriage on the ballot this year. The campaign is facing some resistance from other LGBT groups, but FreedomOhio says it already has the petition signatures required to put the issue to a vote in November.
The full complaint:
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together in dignity.”
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June, gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than $155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border isn’t secure.
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess. One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.