For the happy couple in love, marriage means solidifying their commitment to one another, declaring that that their love is strong and lasting. It means standing before family and friends and becoming a new family that is also a part of each other’s extended family. Marriage means that through good times and bad, sickness and health, they are committed to be there for each other, to stay together through old age, ‘til death do us part.
The importance of the bond of marriage for raising a family together and for providing companionship and comfort in senior years is recognized by our society in the form of the myriad of laws, and benefits, covering everything from adoption, health care, inheritance, pensions and social security.
The meaning of marriage is no different for heterosexual couples and couples of the same gender, except Ohio law bans same gender civil marriage and civil unions. This prohibition denies so many loving couples the benefits and protections of marriage simply because of whom he or she fell in love with and wants to marry. Our United States Constitution grants each of us the equal protection of the laws, yet this inequality and discrimination continues in Ohio. More and more states have enacted marriage equality through legislation, but Ohio cannot do so because of the marriage ban that was voted into Ohio’s Constitution in 2004. It is time to rectify that situation and Freedom Ohio has begun an initiative campaign to put the issue once again before Ohio voters.
Freedom Ohio is gathering signatures to place an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution on the ballot in 2013 that simply allows an adult couple to marry regardless of the gender of the person he or she loves, provided they do not have another spouse and otherwise follow Ohio’s laws on marriage. The amendment explicitly applies only to civil marriage. The amendment provides that religious institutions would continue to decide for themselves whether or not to perform or recognize a marriage, thus respecting religious freedom, while providing fairness to those couples who are now forbidden to marry.
Since 2004 when the Ohio marriage ban was put in place, there have been huge changes in public opinion with President Obama recently announcing support for same-sex marriage and 11 states allowing either civil union or marriage for same-sex couples.
Gay and lesbian couples who have been together for decades should not have to wait any longer to marry the person he or she loves. Children who are being parented by a gay or lesbian couple should have the security of a law permitting both partners to adopt them, something now precluded by the marriage ban. Each of these situations leaves the surviving partner and children without the protections of social security, pension, and estate tax laws that benefit heterosexual couples. This form of discrimination inflicts damage in these and many other ways.
Ohio voters can choose fairness and justice for all of Ohio’s families. Where there is love, let there be marriage.
Mary Jo Kilroy formerly represented Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. She is helping to lead the Freedom Ohio campaign for marriage equality. You can find out more about the campaign at http://www.freedomOhio.com.