The co-founder of FreedomOhio, Ian James, announced on December 19 that their campaign to collect enough signatures to put the legalization of marriage equality on the ballot for 2014 has surpassed its goal.
At a news conference, James said that they had exceeded their goal of 385,247 signatures—the minimum required—to put the issue on the state ballot. A second requirement, gathering signatures from 44 of the 88 counties in Ohio, has also been met.
James declined to state exactly how many signatures FreedomOhio has been able to collect, but said that they were working to get a full one million signatures by early July, the deadline to file for a ballot referendum in November.
The advocacy group also released the results of a poll they had sponsored; it shows that marriage equality remains a polarizing issue, with support for it “equally split 47/48. However, because of the specificity of the amendment that allows houses of worship to have the right to refuse to marry a same sex couple, the overall support grows to 56% and opposition drops to 34%.
“This level of support is made possible because 40% of Ohio’s GOP voters support the amendment.”
The poll, held from December 6 to 8, surveyed 1,011 registered voters in the state.
The poll’s memorandum points out that the public’s views on LGBT rights have drastically changed in recent years, and continue to shift in favor of equality; in 2004, Ohio voters approved Issue One, 62% to 38%, which amended the state constitution to ban legal recognition of same-sex couples. Only eight years later, in September 2012, a poll by the Washington Post found that 52% of Ohio residents were in favor of legalizing marriage equality, while only 37% were opposed.
Even surveys taken only months apart are showing the rapid change in society: “In April 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 48% of Ohioans supported same-sex marriage and 44% oppose. This was a change from six months earlier when 47% opposed same-sex marriage while 45% supported.”
The memorandum continues, “of those opposed to the amendment, 11% indicate they would vote in favor of the amendment when told it protects religious liberties by allowing any house of worship, such as a church or synagogue, to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.
“In this latter scenario where voters have the Amendment language and the ‘right to refuse’ language, support for the amendment grows to 56%, while opposition drops to 34%. The amendment language and ‘Right to Refuse’ moves voters across all demographic groups to support, and demonstrates the importance of specificity in amendment language versus concept.”
James suggested that a number of factors contributed to Ohio’s overall change of heart, including the many legal victories of the last eight years and increased visibility; another interesting statistic the poll uncovered was that 85 percent of respondents know someone who is LGBT.
He said that the poll makes it clear: “Ohio is ready for marriage equality.”