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Ohio group pushes for constitutional marriage ban

Ohio group pushes for constitutional marriage ban

An Ohio group opposed to same-sex marriages says the state law banning gay marriage isn't enough, so members are trying to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The "defense of marriage" legislation, which goes into effect next month, could be weakened by the courts, said David R. Langdon of Cincinnati, the attorney for the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage. The group submitted 218 signatures on a sample petition to Atty. Gen. Jim Petro's office Tuesday. If 100 are verified, the group can begin collecting the signatures of 315,000 registered Ohio voters, the number required to put an initiative on the ballot; the signatures must be collected by August 4. An amendment isn't necessary, said a Republican lawmaker who supported Ohio's Defense of Marriage Act. The law also denies some state benefits to unmarried employees' partners but doesn't affect private business or city governments. "We think we need to let that take hold before we start amending the constitution," said Mike Gilb. The amendment is so broad it would affect unmarried couples of the opposite sex, noted Tim Downing, president of Ohioans for Growth and Equality, a gay rights lobbying group. "If this becomes part of the constitution, they'll never be able to obtain any rights," he said. Many senior citizen couples who live together don't marry because they might lose Social Security benefits from a deceased spouse, yet they receive state benefits for couples such as Medicaid, he said. Downing, a Cleveland attorney specializing in employment law, said a constitutional amendment will make it even harder for the state to attract new businesses, especially high-tech businesses. "Ohio is quickly developing a reputation in the business community as a state that is intolerant," he said. The "gay-bashing" effort is part of a nationwide plan to get religious conservatives to the polls for the presidential election, Downing observed. David Miller, a board member of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, said he thinks the group will have no problem getting the necessary signatures. A recent statewide poll showed 60% of Ohio residents supported an amendment. "Whether we get it on the ballot in 2004 or 2005 is not important," Miller said. "We're going to work until we get it." The first signatures are all from Franklin County, where the Board of Elections will determine if they are valid, Petro spokeswoman Kim Norris said. The attorney general's office must determine if the petition's summary of the amendment is fair and truthful. It begins, "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions."

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