Petro backs gay marriage in Ohio
Republican Jim Petro is well known in Ohio politics. He’s served as Ohio’s Attorney General, State Auditor, Chancellor of Ohio Regents, and a state lawmaker. Now he’s taking a stand in a hot button political issue. Petro is working with the group that wants to put an issue on the ballot next year that would allow Ohioans to vote to overturn the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Petro says the ban is, "intolerant." He says, "it doesn’t make Ohio appear to be very welcoming which is the last thing we need and at the same time, it doesn’t foster an air or equality and I think we need to have a better sense of that."
Petro has never backed the prohibition on gay marriage that Ohioans voted to put in place back in 2004. He says he has always been for civil unions and sees virtually no difference between those and marriage in a legal sense. But for Petro, this isn’t just a matter of law, it’s personal.
Petro says his daughter has been totally forthright about her sexual orientation - "She’s married. Her spouse is Jessica." He says they have a beautiful home in Massachusetts, and "they really believe in equality and freedom and I guess I respect so much what they go through." And the couple is about to make Petro a Grandfather this fall.
Republicans hesitant to take a stand
Petro says the gay marriage amendment that’s on the books is a major reason why his daughter does not live in Ohio today. He says the ballot issue that’s being planned would allow gay marriages and civil unions in Ohio but would not mandate religious organizations perform or recognize them in their churches. He says that’s the way it ought to be.
"Government should be all about equality. If there are faith based issues around it, that’s a religious issue but that’s not government."
Petro says he’s not going to run for office anymore and hanging up his political hat. But what will Petro’s endorsement of this issue mean for Republican candidates who run in the future, especially since the ban on gay marriage is part of the party’s national platform? Chris Schrimpf from the Ohio Republican Party says his organization hasn’t taken a stand on this possible gay marriage ballot issue yet.
Schrimpf says any speculation would be premature at this point, and if and when it does make the ballot, "it would be up to the Republican party’s central committee to make a decision of what the Republican party’s engagement is going to be."
Still Schrimpf says the party would likely not refuse to support a candidate because of their stand on the issue.
Schrimpf says the GOP leadership doesn't, "tell candidates or give them some sort of litmus test on how they should behave on any particular issue. That’s a choice they each have to make."
Gay marriage amendment
The head of Ohio’s Democratic Party, Chris Redfern, doubts Petro’s support of this issue will make a difference to the Republican Party.
Redfern says that Petro has been consistently opposed to the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Redfern says, "[Petro] doesn’t have many friends in the Republican party who share his similar beliefs."
The head of Freedom Ohio, the group that’s backing the petition drive to overturn Ohio’s ban on gay marriage, says he’s certain the group will be able to put the issue on the ballot next fall. Ian James says four thousand Ohioans have already gathered 200 thousand petition signatures. The group will need 365 thousand valid petition signatures next summer in order to put the issue on the fall 2014 ballot.