Battle brews over marriage equality in Ohio

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - As the issue of marriage equality is considered in two separate cases in the U.S. Supreme Court this week, the battle over a proposed state amendment is brewing in Ohio.

"Our family, our friends, they recognize our marriage," Ian James said. "We only want our government to do the same."

Ian James is the CEO of a political consultancy that specializes in grassroots ballot campaigns which have helped to garner over 3.5 million signatures in Ohio for multiple initiatives.

He says he worked directly on the SB5 issue as well as the casino initiative, but he says this effort is personal and thus far he has been volunteering his services.

James and his husband were married in 2004 in Toronto.

"We actually left the country that we love so that we could be married," James told FOX19.

Like many Americans, James is keeping a close eye on the Supreme Court.

"No matter how they rule this is going to create a lot more energy for the movement," James told FOX19.

He says before Senator Rob Portman made his announcement, they had 20 new volunteers signing up daily. After his announcement and the Supreme Court cases making headlines, that number has jumped to an average of over 50.

"The issue with Rob Portman has not changed anything," Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values argued. "In fact if it says it's energized them, he has no idea how much it's energized our side."

Burress helped get the ban on gay marriage passed in Ohio in 2004. He has already been preparing for a ballot box battle.

"We knew that they were collecting signatures last summer so we've been preparing for it ever since then," he told FOX19.

Burress does not believe the Supreme Court decision will have any impact on the buckeye state.

"The public relations that comes out of that is going to be played up big but it's not going to affect Ohio at all," he argued.

Burress is also not putting much stock in polls showing increasing numbers of Ohioans support gay marriage rights.

"The real poll is when people go to the polls and vote," Burress maintained. "I know the people of Ohio, and I know they are for the marriage between one man and one woman."

Currently the FreedomOhio movement is an all-volunteer effort. James says they need 385,245 valid signatures to get the amendment on the ballot.

He says they are waiting to determine if they have the resources need, including the financial resources to pursue the issue on the November ballot. They plan to start hiring field organizers sometime next month.

FreedomOhio has until the beginning of July to get the signatures they need to put the amendment on the ballot in November. James says there is a high probability it will be placed on the ballot this year, but if not they will have the amendment in front of voters in 2014.

James says they plan to ask Senator Rob Portman if he would take on a role in the Freedom Ohio Campaign.

Churches and other religious institutions do not have to perform or recognize same-gender marriages under the proposed amendment.

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