Democrats called a bill prohibiting the recognition of gay marriage in Ohio unnecessary government intrusion. Republicans said the bill was needed to avoid courts dictating state policy. Gay marriage would not be recognized in Ohio and state employees could not obtain health insurance and other benefits for their unmarried partners under a bill the Ohio house passed Wednesday night. The Republican-controlled house voted 69-23 along largely partisan lines to declare that same-sex marriage is against "the strong public policy of the state."
Republicans said the bill was necessary to prevent gay couples legally married elsewhere from having those marriages recognized in Ohio. House speaker Larry Householder said he was opposed to having "outside influences dictate public policy in the state of Ohio." Rep. Bill Seitz, the bill's sponsor, said November's ruling by Massachusetts's high court declaring that state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional could affect Ohio. "I am not willing to leave it to the courts to divine what our strong public policy ought to be," said Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican.
Democrats called the bill offensive and said it would speed up immigration out of the state. "We may continue to chase the best and brightest out of our state--we shouldn't have our hand prints on their backs," said Rep. Chris Redfern of Port Clinton, the top-ranking house Democrat. Rep. Dale Miller, a Cleveland Democrat, questioned why Republicans, who normally call for less government, were intruding in people's lives with the bill. Senate president Doug White said he believed the issue should be debated in the Senate. Gov. Bob Taft said he would sign the bill. Both are Republicans.
The legislation changes Ohio's existing marriage statute to add, "A marriage may only be entered into by one man and one woman" and declare that extending benefits for unmarried partners to state employees, whether of the same or opposite sex, is against state policy. It also says Ohio would not recognize same-sex marriages entered in other states. The bill also says that employees are not prevented from using other legal means, such as union agreements, to obtain such benefits. For example, public employees such as teachers could seek the benefits through collective bargaining with their school districts.