Republican U.S. senator Mike DeWine of Ohio was criticized
by religious conservatives for failing to back a state
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil
unions, which was overwhelmingly passed by voters. Now
DeWine, who is facing a tough reelection bid in November,
has said he will take a lead role in pushing for a
U.S. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex
marriage, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
DeWine said he
would cosponsor the amendment that Tennessee senator Bill
Frist has scheduled for a vote in June. The measure
currently has about 20 cosponsors, but supporters
concede it is unlikely the Senate will approve it by
the required two-thirds majority.
According to the
Dispatch, DeWine is expected to easily win the
Republican primary in May. But he faces a stiff challenge in
November from Rep. Sherrod Brown of Avon, the likely
Democratic nominee for the Senate race. To prevail,
DeWine will need a heavy turnout from conservatives,
many of whom are unhappy with him on issues of same-sex
marriage and curbing immigration.
"It looks like he
is going to have a close race with Sherrod Brown,"
John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of
Applied Politics at the University of Akron and an
expert on religion and politics, told the
Dispatch. "It makes a lot of sense politically
for him to want to solidify that [conservative] base,
and this is one way to do it."
head of Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati group
that pushed Ohio's marriage amendment, is supporting
little-known conservative David Smith in the GOP
primary. But he said DeWine's decision is "the
very thing that could put him back in office."
"Marriage is the issue today," he told the Dispatch.
"Anyone who opposes the marriage amendment is starting
to understand that it is a death knell to the family
movement. You cannot oppose it and expect the pro-family
movement to support you."
DeWine, saying he
has "always believed marriage is between a man and a
woman," said he voted in 2004 to end a filibuster on a
similar amendment. He and other Senate Republicans,
however, failed to muster the necessary 60 votes that
would have forced a floor vote on the amendment.
But DeWine also
expressed reservations about the amendment two years ago.
At the time he said he did not like the issue being pushed
"in the heat of a presidential campaign." He also said
he would prefer to wait until courts ruled on state
bans of same-sex marriage.
DeWine cited a decision last year by a federal judge
striking down a Nebraska constitutional amendment that
banned same-sex marriage. Nebraska voters had approved
the amendment by a wide margin in 2000. DeWine
complained about "activist judges who are going against
what states are doing." He is a member of the
Judiciary Committee, which will consider the issue
first. Republicans have been accused of attempting to
use the amendment as a wedge issue to stir up support
in an election year. (The Advocate)