Last updated: February 08. 2014 4:20PM - 1805 Views
By Heather Rutz hrutz@civitasmedia.com

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LIMA — A group supporting marriage for same-sex couples will kick off a statewide awareness campaign with a town hall meeting Tuesday in Lima.

Why Marriage Matters Ohio is attempting to “increase the level of support for marriage equality in Ohio” before an attempt at repealing the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state, Why Marriage Matters Ohio Campaign Manager Michael Premo said.

The group and gay rights advocacy group Equality Ohio will hold a town hall from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Lima Senior High School. The meeting is open to the public, but those attending should RSVP at http://whymarriagemattersoh.org. The town hall is the first of 18 talks scheduled through Labor Day around the state, Premo said.

“We want to engage with folks about the issue of marriage equality, why it’s important, and why loving and committed couples should be given the right to marry someone they love,” Premo said. “We’ll give an overview of where marriage equality is nationally and in Ohio, how we’re going forward and how to engage with folks who don’t currently agree with us and how to change some minds.”

The effort comes amid a changing view from the public. In 2004, voters voted to add the one man-one woman definition of marriage to Ohio’s Constitution. An April Quinnipiac University Poll showed Ohio voters leaning toward same-sex marriage, 48 percent to 44 percent against it. The poll showed a substantial gender gap, with women supporting it 52 percent to 40 percent, while men are opposed 49 percent to 43 percent. Same-sex marriage is authorized in 18 states.

Freedom Ohio is a separate organization working to put a new issue on the ballot that would repeal the 2004 constitutional amendment, and Why Marriage Matters is supporting that effort. The issue may not show up on a ballot until 2016, Premo said. Groups working on the issue are now discussing the best timing, with the most-favorable electorate and best chance of victory.

“We’re not ruling it in or out, but it looks like 2014 would be difficult; it’s not the electorate we want,” Premo said. “It’s going to be a consensus decision, but we’re weighing the question of, ‘Do we wait to win?’”

Premo said everyone is welcome at the town hall, no matter their thoughts on the issue.

“We come from a position of compassion and understanding. We don’t judge or criticize. We just want to talk, and often find that folks who used to oppose marriage equality change their minds and become supporters,” Premo said. “When people engage with family and friends and share their stories, it moves people along. When people know and care about someone, and their willing to engage in a respectful conversation about it, we see change.”

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