Ohio Split Evenly on Gay Marriage
A new poll shows that Ohioans are split on gay marriage and that if an election were held today, they would not vote to overturn the state’s ban on marriage equality.
"Ohio voters who oppose amending the constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry are nearly twice as likely as those who favor the amendment to say that same-sex marriage is a critical issue facing the state," 31 percent to 16 percent, respectively, read the poll, which was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, the poll surveyed 1,001 adults (883 of them registered voters) and discovered an even split: 47 percent feel that same-sex couples should be allowed to wed, and 47 percent did not. Six percent were unsure or did not respond. The firm disclosed that the poll "was made possible through generous funding from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund," which lists gay marriage advocacy among its initiatives.
The results have some LGBT rights advocates concerned about putting gay marriage on the 2014 ballot, but experts say a push to overturn the state ban on marriage equality would best succeed in Cleveland and surrounding Northeast Ohio counties, where 51 percent of people support a repeal. About 68 percent, including 61 percent of Republicans, say they favor laws protecting gays from job discrimination.
People’s views on morality, family and sexuality are less challenged by workplace rights than marriage, said Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. Eighty-four percent of the people surveyed didn’t realize Ohio law doesn’t already bar job discrimination.
"Marriage is one that people have to wrestle a little more strongly with their own religious views," Jones, one of the survey’s authors, told the Chillicothe Gazette.
The religious right in Ohio is doing its part, making sure gay marriage remains banned in the state. Phil Burress, head of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values group that led the successful 2004 campaign to ban gay marriage in Ohio, sent out emails reading, "As the military prepares for war, so must we!" The email features a picture of a wedding cake topped with figurines of two tuxedo-clad men, reports the Columbus Dispatch.
"The homosexual activists have begun a petition campaign to repeal the Ohio 2004 Marriage Amendment that defines marriage between one man and one woman and replace it with verbiage to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio," Burress said.
Ian James of Freedom to Marry Ohio, the group backing same-sex marriage, accused Burress of being dishonest about what the amendment would actually do. James said there is no educational curriculum language in the amendment and nothing about firing people for expressing religious objections in the workplace. Additionally, the amendment would not punish people for expressing their religious views of marriage.
"Phil is simply bearing false witness in his recent grab for cash," James told The Columbus Dispatch.
Though Ohio is on the fence when it comes to marriage equality, other parts of the country seem to be more progressive on the issue. A recent poll shows a slightly higher level of support in New Jersey, with 60 percent of voters favoring a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. And a Quinnipiac Poll found that 50 percent of Virginia voters were in favor of same-sex marriage, with a clear majority of women supporting it.
Support for marriage equality is at a record high in the U.S. after the SCOTUS ruling, with a USA Today poll this summer showing that a majority of Americans now support it.
"By an unprecedented 55 percent to 40 percent, Americans say marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights of traditional marriage," USA Today wrote. "That’s the highest level of support since Gallup began asking the question in 1996. Then, fewer than half that number, 27 percent, backed the idea."
Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.