Gay Victory Changes Little for Ohioians – For Now

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Social media in Ohio was abuzz with news of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on two landmark rulings on gay rights.

But those comments were largely tempered with the knowledge that one of those decisions needs more work before it really changes things for gays in Ohio.

First, the court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and ruled that legally-married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

The court also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.

The justices ruled that opponents of gay marriage didn't have the right to appeal lower court rulings that struck down a ban on same-sex unions.

But that was a ruling specific to California, Ohio is a different story.

Lydia E. Lavelle and assistant professor with the North Carolina Central University School of Law, who calls Athens her hometown, was quick to sum up her feelings about the ruling.

She quoted a Facebook friend in an email to WOUB News.

“BREAKING: In places where gay people have the same rights as everyone else, they have the same rights as everyone else. In places where they don't, they don't.” 

One of those places where "they don't," is Ohio.

"True, it is a big day for moving the ball forward for gay rights with the defeat of DOMA, but for those of us who live in states like North Carolina or Ohio, our rights are no different than yesterday," she lamented.

"Not unexpected, I might add," she concluded.

Still the decision is a one step and moves forward a proposed amendment legalizing gay marriage in Ohio.

Ian James, chief executive officer of The Strategy Network and a gay-rights advocate based in Columbus, Ohio co-founded FreedomOhio with his husband Stephen Letourneau-James, a statewide non-profit that plans to place the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment on the November 2014 ballot.

The two were legally wed in Toronto, Canada, in 2003.

James says this rulings are very good news for the gay community.

“We are elated that the Supreme Court has repealed DOMA and in effect rejected Proposition 8.  These decisions are proof that the tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country, and we have taken two more important steps toward true equality.”

Even though he and his husband officially married in Canada, James says his marriage is still not recognized in Ohio.

"There is no 'full faith and credit' to our marriage."

“This important moment, however, does not change the reality that Ohio still has a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage," James said about Wednesday's decision.

"We are elated and our resolve has been doubled to collect signatures. The journey continues. We will bring marriage equality to Ohio in November, 2014.”

James was also a recent guest of WOUB General Manager Tom Hodson on "Conversations From Studio B."

“We have had to spend over $8,500 to get the legal paperwork together in Ohio to protect our business, our property and to allow each of us to be there for the other in times of illness or disability,” James said.

“If our marriage were recognized by the state, we wouldn’t have had to go through all of that.”

“Even after spending all the time and money to obtain our rights, we still don’t have the same rights that a straight man and a woman would have if they spent $45 for a marriage license in Ohio and had a legal ceremony performed,” James added.

James thinks the time is right for Ohio to reconsider marriage equality.

“We’ve seen a seismic shift over the past few years in Ohio in favor of same sex marriages,” James said.

He notes that a recent poll found 54 percent of Ohioans are in favor of same sex marriages and support the amendment.

James says that over the next 17 months he will begin raising the financial resources to fight the battle.

And he will be having thousands of conversations about why marriage matters and that it is really about “family security and civil rights.”

He says he knows it will cost millions of dollars to win this battle but he also claims that having the ban in place in Ohio is hurting Ohio’s economy.

“The ban hurts Ohio. It keeps talented people from wanting to come here to work and each year we lose talented workers to other states who recognize marriage,” James noted.

Overall James says he is optimistic about Ohioans adopting his goal for marriage equality.

He is buoyed by the reaction he always gets in his home county of Athens.

He reminds everyone who will listen that Athens Co. was the only county in Ohio to vote against the same-sex marriage ban in 2004.

“Athens is where I go to find all that is right,” James mused.