By Michael Premo
The day I married my wife will forever be one of the best days of my life. Those who gathered around us supported our decision to enter into a commitment based on love and the promise to one another that we would take responsibility for our lives together.
I can’t imagine someone telling me it was illegal to marry the person I love.
And that is why I am leading a campaign to ensure that every loving and committed couple in Ohio, including same-sex couples, have the chance to marry the person they love.
Why Marriage Matters Ohio was launched five months ago to make marriage equality a reality in our state. Our movement is already growing — we’ve connected with thousands of supporters, we have organizers on the ground and are bringing on more, as well as opening four regional offices. Just last week in Lima, we had the first of 18 town hall meetings to deepen support for marriage equality across the state.
There is much work to do in a state as large and diverse as Ohio. Our coalition of local and national organizations has charted a path to securing the freedom to marry in Ohio as quickly as we think we can prevail. Based on solid research and data, we believe strongly that that year for victory is 2016.
Unfortunately in Ohio, our opponents rushed a constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marrying to the ballot in 2004, well before Ohioans had the opportunity to have conversations with one another and their gay and lesbian friends and neighbors about why marriage matters to them. As a result, we can’t work to simply pass a law; instead, we need to go to the ballot to repeal the amendment in order to secure the freedom to marry while others are working on a track to secure that freedom in court.
Winning marriage equality at the ballot is extremely difficult, and in fact, nationwide our side lost every ballot fight prior to 2012. Since then, our movement has cracked the code and in 2012, our side prevailed at the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. The Why Marriage Matters Ohio coalition is bringing that winning formula to our great state.
One of the things we’ve learned is that it is much more difficult to win in an “off-year” election than in a presidential election year. That’s because only about 40 percent of voters go to the polls when there’s not a presidential election, as opposed to nearly 60 percent in a presidential year. The off-year electorate also skews much older than in a presidential year, while support for the freedom to marry is much stronger among younger voters. That’s why, even though some polling shows that we’re at or near 50 percent support in Ohio overall, when we look at who would turn out to vote in 2014, the numbers simply don’t show a pathway to a victory.
We also know from recent victories that we must first change hearts and minds, and build a robust campaign that can win at the ballot box. To do so, we must continue to grow support for the freedom to marry in Ohio past the 50 percent mark and ensure financial resources are available for the multimillion dollar effort (to put this in context, the ballot campaign in Minnesota — a state less than half the size of Ohio in population — cost $13.2 million).
The work ahead is critical to our ultimate success. Our work requires us to spark conversations about why marriage matters in homes, at workplaces and with our friends, family and neighbors. Experience shows that those who have a conversation with someone who supports marriage equality — and when undecided people think about why they themselves got married — support for marriage equality increases dramatically.
To spark these conversations, we are building one of the largest coalition campaigns in Ohio history. Our coalition will be broad, diverse and will represent all walks of life in Ohio.
Working with partners like Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Ohio and Equality Ohio Education Fund, we’ve already secured more than $750,000 toward this critical public education campaign.
Our path to victory is clear: We must continue to grow meaningful and authentic conversations in 2014 in order to be in a position to go to the ballot in 2016. And we can get this done.
Why Marriage Matters Ohio is committed to winning the freedom to marry for all those couples who are being told today that it is illegal to marry the person they love. You can join us in ensuring that all Ohioans are treated with fairness and respect — the way all Ohioans deserve to be treated — by joining in our effort today.
Premo is the campaign manager of Why Marriage Matters Ohio.