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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) In Ohio.

Part 1: 2004-NOV: SSM Ban added to Constitution.
2013-MAR: Saperstein opinion poll. Comments.

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On this web site:

"SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.
"LGBT" refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual community.

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2004: Ohio Constitution modified to deny state recognition of same-sex relationships:

"Ohio Issue 1," an amendment to the state Constitution, was passed by the voters during 2004 by a margin of 62% to 38%. The text reads:

"Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."

This constitutional amendment prohibits the Ohio Legislature from creating laws to make marriages, domestic partnerships, and/or civil unions available to same-sex couples. The result is that loving, committed same-sex couples must be considered as "legal strangers" -- mere roommates -- by the state. These couples and their children are denied benefits and protections automatically given to opposite-sex married couples in Ohio. These total a few hundred state benefits plus 1,138 federal benefits. 1

On 2013-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the federal lawsuit Edith Windsor v. United States. They determined that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. This means that once a same-sex couple is married in a state with marriage equality, or a same-sex couple has been married elsewhere and moved or returned to a state that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages, they are treated like opposite-sex marriage couples in terms of access to federal marriage benefits.

As long as Ohio's constitutional amendment created by Issue 1 remains in force, same-sex couples in Ohio will be unable to marry and be unable to have their out-of-state marriages recognized. Thus, they and their children will be denied access to either the state or federal benefits.

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2013-MAR: Support for a proposal to repeal "Issue 1" and legalize SSM in Ohio:

A Saperstein poll sampled 1,003 adults in Ohio from MAR-5 to 10 via cell phones and land lines. 2

Results showed 54% support and 40% opposition for a proposal that would:

  • Repeal the Issue 1 constitutional amendment of 2004, and

  • Legalize SSM by allowing "two consenting adults to marry, regardless of their gender."

The margin of error of this poll is ±3.1 percentage points.

The proposed text would include a redundant clause protecting clergy and congregations who wish to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already gives absolute protection to faith groups and clergy in such matters. For centuries, clergy in America have regularly refused to marry couples because they were regarded as too immature, were an interfaith couple, or of a different faith group, or of mixed race, or of African American ancestry, and even -- in the case of the Roman Catholic Church -- where one of the couple was physically disabled. Recently, some pastors, ministers and priests have been refusing to marry same-sex couples in those states where it is legal. To our knowledge, no member of the clergy in the U.S. has ever run afoul of any law for refusing to marry a couple for any reason. Still, it is important to add a clause protecting clergy to any constitutional amendment, or any bill introduced into the state legislature, or any citizen initiative that involves marriage for same-sex couples. As Martin D. Saperstein -- head of the Columbus, OH firm that conducted the poll -- said, such clauses are important because:

"... they ameliorate the concerns that some people may have, like is this going to be forced on me, or forced on my church." 2

Jen Tyrrell, a lesbian who has been in a relationship with her female partner for six years, has been selected to co-chair a steering committee to prepare a referendum. If passed, it would repeal the 2004 constitutional amendment and bring about marriage equality. She rejects arguments by social and religious conservatives against SSM, saying that:

"All of those arguments are the same ones that they used to deny blacks equality." 2

It is important to recall that there have been many instances during the history of the United States when marriage has been redefined. To state it more precisely, when the eligibility to be married was redefined:

  • After the civil war when African American former slaves were free to decide to marry for the first time.

  • In the early years of the 20th century when legislation forbidding deaf couples from marrying was repealed in various states.

  • In 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared in the aptly named case Loving v. Virginia that interracial couples could marry everywhere in the U.S.

  • In 2004 when Massachusetts changed their marriage law to allow all loving, committed couples to marry, whether same-sex or opposite-sex.

  • In subsequent years when the District of Columbia and 17 other states (as of 2013-DEC-25) achieved marriage equality, through court rulings, citizen initiatives, or legislature action.

Chris Long is president of the Ohio Christian Alliance, a group opposing marriage equality. He says that support for same-sex marriage has grown because:

"... homosexual activists have been successful in a form of indoctrination in the public schools over the past 20 years, pushing that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle." 2

Religious and social conservatives often use the term "homosexual lifestyle" in places where others refer to "homosexual orientation." "Lifestyle" carries with it the impression that homosexuality is something that the individual chooses. Essentially everyone in the LGBT community, human sexuality researchers, mental health professionals, religious progressives, and secularists regard sexual orientation as something that a person discovers, does not choose, and in adulthood cannot change.

We suspect that the increase in support for marriage equality and for equal rights for the LGBT community has been primarily caused by:

  • Individual lesbians, gays, and bisexuals by the millions risking physical, spiritual and emotional abuse by being open about their sexual orientation to fellow students, family members, and friends.

  • High profile entertainers, TV personalities, and professional athletes who are gay or lesbian and have gone public with their sexual orientation.

  • Professional associations of social workers, educators, psychologists, and psychiatrists accepting and propogating the belief that homosexual and bisexual orientation is normal and natural for a minority of adults, and advocating for equal treatment under the law.

  • Positive portrayals of the LGBT community on TV and in movies.

Chris Long suggested that if SSM becomes available in Ohio, it might not be long before Christians in the U.S. are prosecuted for spreading hate speech by merely sharing Bible passages that some interpret as condemning same-gender sexual behavior. 2 He said that some Canadian Christians have been so prosecuted. He may not be aware that the Canadian Constitution does not have a clause equivalent to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees almost complete freedom of speech -- including hate speech. Canada follows the British tradition of banning hate speech and the advocacy of genocide. Christians in the U.S. would only have to fear prosecution for speaking openly against homosexuality or engaging in hate speech if the First Amendment was first repealed. The probability of that ever happening is essentially zero.

That said, most states have human rights legislation in place. It typically defines a "place of public accommodation" as any commercial establishment -- inn, barbershop, public conveyance, store, hotel, etc. -- that serves the public. In Ohio, such public accommodations are required to not discriminate against customers in the provision of a service or goods based on the customer's race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry. 3 The rationale behind human rights legislation is that to refuse service to women or a minority is very disruptive to social harmony. However, in many more liberal states, sexual orientation and gender identity are included as prohibited grounds for discrimination. In those states, but not in Ohio, wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, hall renters, etc. can and have run afoul of human rights legislation by refusing on religious grounds to provide services or products to engaged same-sex couples planning to marry.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "The Ohio Constitution: 15.11: Marriage Amendment," at
  2. Darrel Rowland, "Poll: Ohio marriage views shift," The Columbus Dispatch, 2013-MAR-24, at:
  3. "Ohio Revised Code: 4112.02 Unlawful discriminatory practices" at:

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Ohio > here

Copyright © 2013 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-JUL-24
Latest update: 2018-MAR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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