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Marriage equality: Fighting for equal rights

By Emily C. Tate
On April 11, 2014

Flash back to 1919 as the fight for gender equality propels forward with the passage of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. Flash forward a half-century later, when the fight for racial equality advances under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination against race and color. Skip ahead another 50 years and it's 2014, when the ongoing fight for marriage equality is on the brink of making history.

Since Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage over a decade ago, 16 others plus the District of Columbia have followed. And now, all signs point to Ohio joining their ranks in the coming years.

Much has changed since a 2004 amendment to the Ohio Constitution banned same sex-marriage throughout the state, not the least of which is public opinion.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute's 2013 Ohio Values Survey, Ohioans are split equally.

"Forty-seven percent of voters favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to an equal number (47%) who are opposed," PRRI reported.

While these results are good news for those in support of the movement, Campaign Manager for Why Marriage Matters Ohio Michael Premo said it is not yet ballot-ready.

"We know that 50 percent of the poll does not equal 50 percent on Election Day," Premo said. "We need at least mid-50s to feel confident to go to ballot."

Due to the marginal numbers, advocate groups for Ohio marriage equality will likely hold the issue until the 2016 election, when it has had more time to gain favor.

"All the facts show 2014 is not the year," Premo told the New York Times in a separate interview. "If this amendment goes forward and fails ... it will be a boost in momentum for opponents of marriage equality."

However, Ohio is still managing to chisel away at the ban, regardless of an election.

Four gay couples (all legally married in other states) filed a lawsuit in Ohio in February, requesting to have both partners' names listed on their children's birth certificates. The families went to court in Cincinnati last Friday, April 4, to review the case. The court decision is currently still pending.

"[Judge Timothy Black] has not ruled but he said he would issue a ruling on or before April 14 [saying] that the state of Ohio has to recognize same sex couples married in other states," Premo said. "It doesn't completely strike down the ban on same-sex couples, but we think it's a huge step in the right direction."

A ruling of that significance could have a major impression on support for marriage equality, he said.

Many Miami students have been keeping up with the status of same-sex marriage rights in Ohio as well as cases such as this one, including sophomore David Malone.

Malone said he is hopeful same-sex marriage will pass when it finally does make it to the ballot, but he also maintained a realistic outlook on the matter.

"As much as many of us would love immediate results here, this movement toward equal marriage rights is going to take time to come full circle," he said. "It's not an instantaneous process, and I'm confident that eventually equality will win out over the cynics."

Malone acknowledged there are many opponents to this issue, just like any other controversial issue, but he also respects their opinions.

"Everyone is entitled to their [own] opinion," he said. "If someone doesn't want to vote for marriage equality, then they are more than welcome to vote against it. Ultimately, equality is going to win, so unless someone is being outright hateful ... I have no issue with them."

Premo had more of a go-getter attitude toward the marriage equality challengers.

"We look at those who don't agree with us as future supporters," he said. "What you see all across Ohio is people who used to not support it now changing their minds. Democrats, republicans, evangelicals - there are all sorts of people who have changed their minds."

Premo said many people carry the notion that gay and lesbian couples want to get married for benefits, but in fact, that is not the case at all.

"Gay and lesbian couples want [marriage] for the same reason as anyone else, for the same reason I married my wife," he said. "Some gay and lesbian couples have been together for decades and raised children together. We want to share stories of loving and committed couples so [others] see this is not an abstraction or an academic argument."

Miami has a number of student organizations and programs on its campus in support of marriage equality.

One example is Spectrum, which is a student-led association on Miami's campus that promotes awareness and education regarding LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Ally) issues.

This week was Spectrum's LGBTQA "Awareness Week," during which they hosted distinguished speakers Daniel Trust and Janet Mock and held HIV information and testing sessions. The week will finish with the Pride Parade at 4 p.m. today in Uptown Park.

Miami's advocacy for the gay community extends well beyond the this week's events. According to the Campus Pride Index, Miami earned 4.5 out of 5 stars on its campus pride score. This score is based on many factors, including LGBT policies, support and commitment, student life and counseling services.

Miami students and all marriage equality proponents can easily help promote the cause, Premo said

"Talk to your friends and family about it, just start that conversation," Premo said. "Then keep having the conversations, keeping asking the questions, and keep telling the stories."

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