Thursday, February 5, 2004

Ohio’s governor says he will sign a measure passed by the General Assembly yesterday banning same-sex “marriages.”

Proponents say this move should discourage court challenges stemming from the Massachusetts high court ruling that homosexuals have a right to such unions.

“As things now stand, if another state has a law, you have to honor it. We don’t want Massachusetts to write the laws for Ohio,” said Bob Reed, a legislative aide for Rep. Mike Gilb, who is chairman of the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives’ Committee on Juvenile and Family Law.

A 1934 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires states to recognize marriages from other states — in most circumstances.

Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, will sign the bill by the Feb. 16 deadline, his spokesman, Orest Holubec, said yesterday. The House passed the bill 72-22 yesterday. The Senate, also dominated by Republicans, previously approved the bill by a narrower margin.

Mr. Reed said the legal need for the legislation is because of the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution.

“The clause says that states, by full faith and credit, must honor laws of other states, unless the home state has something different and a strong public policy” on that issue, Mr. Reed said yesterday.

Ohio’s bill is considered one of the toughest same-sex “marriage” bans in the United States, mainly because it prohibits state employees, regardless of sexual orientation, from getting marital benefits for unmarried partners.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Rep. Bill Seitz, stipulates that same-sex “marriages” would be “against the strong public policy of the state.”

It also prohibits Ohio from recognizing any “public act or judicial proceeding” from any jurisdiction that provides the benefits of marriage to unwed couples.

Mr. Reed said existing state law says marriages are between a man and a woman, each at least 16 years old, who “are not nearer in kin than second cousins,” but that it was “not specifically clear” that homosexuals could not “marry.”

Seth Kilbourn, national field director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights lobbying group, said, “The passage of this bill will do great damage to gay and lesbian couples and families in Ohio and deny them the security and benefits other couples enjoy.”

Mr. Kilbourn said the measure will be a “grave threat” both to homosexual and heterosexual couples in Ohio.

“We’ll look at all options to minimize the damage,” he said.

Lambda Legal Defense, a legal advocacy group for homosexuals, declined to say yesterday whether it will challenge Ohio’s same-sex “marriage” ban.

Mr. Taft’s office said they received more than 11,353 letters, faxes, e-mails and phone calls about HB 272. As of late yesterday, there were 5,806 opponents, compared with 5,547 supporters, a staffer said.

Thirty-seven states have enacted laws recognizing only marriages between members of the opposite sex. Unlike some, the Ohio law will not be a constitutional amendment, Mr. Reed said.

In Iowa, where only marriages between a man and woman are recognized, the state supreme court agreed yesterday to review a divorce agreement granted to two lesbians who wanted to end the civil union they obtained in Vermont.

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