marriage-equalityA variety of southwestern Ohio lawmakers recently made excuses for not supporting equal marriage rights, and the general spinelessness is striking.

At least with a good, candid bigot, the lines are clearly drawn. But these days there is a growing tendency among some who support inequality to hedge, waffle, and deflect blame.

Take state Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, who told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he doesn’t support or oppose equal rights for same-sex couples.

“I don’t put my thumb on the scale on that one,” he said. “The prohibition against it is in the constitution, so it’s not really a legislative decision. It’s up to the voters of Ohio.”

Refusing to protect the equal rights of Ohio citizens in 2015 by blaming Ohio voters circa 2004 is a popular tactic.

All told, out of 25 elected officials asked, six support equal rights, and 18 oppose equal rights. Eight of them oppose it on grounds that their god wants them to, while six say it’s the voters who want them to. The remaining four say it’s, well, just because. Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, displayed his leadership in gutlessness by refusing to answer.

The only Republican to support equal rights is U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. While no Democrats were in opposition, the Enquirer noted that state Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-North Avondale, has changed his position within the last couple years from opposition to support.

The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to decide on the constitutionality of Ohio refusing to recognize same-sex marriages from other states this summer. Combined with three other cases, SCOTUS looks to make a landmark decision on the constitutionality of state-by-state bans on same-sex marriage.

Ohio voters in 2004 incorporated such a ban in our state constitution with 62 percent in favor. This was a wedge issue that year used to rally conservatives to the polls in a variety of swing states to re-elect George W. Bush, and it worked.

Quinnipiac conducted a poll last May in Ohio on the subject. Their findings:

Ohio voters support 50 – 43 percent allowing same-sex couples to marry. There are wide gender and age gaps as 44 percent of men support same-sex marriage while 48 percent are opposed. Women support it 56 – 39 percent.

Voters 18 to 34 years old support same-sex marriage 72 – 24 percent. Support drops to 52 – 43 percent among voters 35 to 54 years old. Voters over 55 oppose same-sex marriage 52 – 40 percent.

Support is 74 – 23 percent among Democrats, dropping to a narrow 49 – 43 percent among independent voters, with Republicans opposed 66 – 27 percent.

While the poll statistics are interesting to look at, they don’t matter.

In Federalist Paper 51, James Madison, known in his lifetime as the father of the Constitution, wrote, “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.”

Simply put, judicious consideration must be given as to whether the laws passed by a majority of voters are reasonable and fair to a given minority, or whether they are unreasonable and unfairly target that minority—whether they in fact violate a minority’s constitutional rights.

The United States has a distinguished history of majority populations unreasonably and unfairly targeting minority populations with unjust laws. And that is why now, in Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court must step in.

Of course, the legislature could step in, but they are unwilling to do so.

Some refuse on religious principle. I suppose that’s better than hiding behind 2004’s voter turnout, though it doesn’t say much for their belief in equal protection under the law, given to all Americans by the Fourteenth Amendment (and so far never fully realized). In full, supply irony, the “father” of the Fourteenth was Ohio’s own John Bingham, a Lincoln-era progressive Republican.

Here are those who stand opposed to equal rights on grounds of existential superstition:

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester; U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood; U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia-Tusculum; state Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township; state Rep. Jonathan Dever, R-Madeira; state Rep. Margaret Conditt, R-Liberty Township; state Rep. Doug Green, R-Mount Orab; and state Rep. Louis Terhar, R-Green Township.

Next, here are the ones claiming voters in 2004 have done their thinking for them:

State Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township; state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township (who is also hilariously worried about Social Security actuarial impacts); state Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Miami Township; state Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout; state Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton; and state Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason.

Here are the outliers, whose excuses could not be classified:

State Rep. Ron Maag, R-Salem Township, who is concerned about a “rush” to grant equal protection under the law to all citizens; state Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Township, who just says, “No,” without further explanation; state Rep. Louis “Bill” Blessing, R-Colerain Township, who justifies his “No,” by saying the state legislature has no plans to deal with it; and finally state Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Clearcreek Township, who says, “No,” because it’s not what she believes in.

On the other side stand five Democrats and one Republican.

They are U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman; state Sen. Cecil Thomas; state Rep. Christie Bryant Kuhns, D-Northside; state Rep. Denise Driehaus, D-Clifton Heights; and state Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Bond Hill.

For their positions, they each cite the little things in life like justice, equality, human rights, civil rights, and love.

David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.

 
  • Susan Riley

    Portman was dead set against it until his son informed him he was gay. I wonder if Portman would change his mind about abortion if a family member was affected by it. I don’t trust Portman as far as I could throw him – and that’s not far.

  • Red Rover

    Steve Driehaus, a Democrat, had the nerve to march in a pride parade a few years ago when he was in office. I was holding an “Equal Marriage Now!” sign on the parade route and caught his attention as he was walking by. I simply asked him, “Do you support this?” He shook his head and made a non-committal response before shuffling away. Good riddance.

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