We talk a lot around here about voting on rights – basically, rights are rights because you are born to them; you don't vote on rights. That's a principle, but there's also the practice. In January, activists in Maine decided to ask voters directly for marriage equality. They had already gathered the signatures needed for a referendum, and then they decided to go for it.
Now comes Ohio, where activists for marriage equality say they've finished the first step for getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot. They say they've got the 1,700 signatures required in Ohio before the amendment's language can be accepted for the ballot. If they pass that test, they can then begin collecting the 385,000 signatures needed for a referendum perhaps as early as this fall. From the Columbus Dispatch:
Phil Burress, of the Cincinnati-based group Citizens for Community Values, said that if same-sex marriage supporters put the issue on the ballot this fall "they can kiss (President Barack) Obama goodbye." Burress' group was instrumental in passing the 2004 amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman, an issue credited by some with helping President George W. Bush to win a second term.
"I guess they're feeling their oats because seven states have same-sex marriage," Burress said. "They're going to have their hands full. We're prepared to meet them on the field of battle."
Ohio currently has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage rights. The new measure would offer marriage as "a union of two consenting adults, regardless of gender." Nationwide, marriage equality has lost in referendums by 33 to 1. None of this makes asking for a referendum in Ohio or Maine foolhardy or smart, either one. But they are different from what has gone before.