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Ohio Grassroots LGBT Activist Battle Equality Ohio and HRC Over 2014 Same Sex Marriage Ballot

David vs. Goliath

On Valentines Day of all days, Equality Ohio, The Human Rights Campaign, and the national organization Freedom To Marry officially announced that it would not support and work with grassroots groups from around the state including FreedomOhio to put gay marriage on the ballot this year and instead wait until 2016.

They state that support likely won’t be high enough to guarantee a win for same-sex marriage until 2016, naming that as their official target date for a ballot initiative. Now  EO, HRC and FTM now want to start afresh gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures, because they’ve decided that they won’t support the same-sex marriage amendment that FreedomOhio, has been circulating since 2012. (Even though Equality Ohio’s helped write the amendment language back in 2011 when the two groups were working together.) Instead EO with FTM want to use the two years to focus on changing Ohioans’ minds through holding town hall meetings and identifying community members who can share stories. (Because we all know that the changing of “hearts and minds” strategy works so well.)

A same-sex marriage loss “would be a major setback, not just for Ohio, but for the movement, because there are many other states similarly situated,” said Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio. “We can’t fall down on the job.”

FreedomOhio Co-founder and Executive Director Ian James said Ohioans support his amendment . James said national groups don’t know Ohio and his amendment has grassroots support from Ohioans who believe same-sex couples should be able to marry. FreedomOhio representatives have collected more than 650,000 signatures from Ohio voters, with a goal to turn in 1 million signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Only 385,247 valid signatures are required.

A statement sent out by James after Equality Ohio, HRC’s, and FTM’s decision reads:

It is not news that the out-of-touch leadership of Equality Ohio has negative things to say about bringing marriage equality to loving couples in our state. The leaders of Equality Ohio are stuck knee-deep in a negative quagmire, and are betraying their membership. We don’t make progress by sowing fear into the hearts of our biggest supporters,” James said. 

 “We’re focusing on the positive. Our ballot language has been approved by the Ohio Attorney General, the Ohio Ballot Board and the Ohio Supreme Court.  The latest polling shows 56 percent of Ohioans would approve our specific language because it gives a loving couple the legal right to marry and preserves the religious freedom of houses of worship.  On Valentine’s Day, the failed leadership of Equality Ohio attempted to shoot an arrow into the heart of marriage equality and missed.  We’re positive we’re on the right track to bringing marriage equality to Ohio.”

Equality Ohio since its founding in 2004 has been plagued problems including having 5 different Directors in its 9 years in existence one of which who was forced to resign after being arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct after a Columbus Ohio Gay Pride Parade, EO has also been accused of suspected misuse of funds after using donations to move to more palatial offices, and has been accused of having a major disconnect from LGBT citizens of Ohio after refusing to endorse a state constitutional amendment that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

NOTE:  Back2Stonewall fully supports FreedomOhio’s 2oi4 balloy initiative and disagrees with EO’s Elyzabeth Holford’s statement that “same-sex marriage loss “would be a major setback, not just for Ohio, but for the movement, because there are many other states similarly situated.”  With all recent major wins in marriage equality coming through the courts and not by ballot a win or a loss in Ohio will force the Ohio same sex marriage question into the courts where it belongs much more quickly and with the precedent set by the Edith Windsor win in the Supreme Court Ohio’s very rigid statewide DOMA will be struck down once and for all.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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