Voters in the November 2013 election could decide if Ohio will become the 10th state to allow same-sex marriages if proponents of a petition to amend the state constitution can gather the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot.
New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire currently allow same-sex marriages as does Washington D.C. while California, Maryland and Washington have statutory or judicial recognition of same-sex marriage that has not yet taken effect.
On April 3, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified a petition from the Ohio Freedom to Marry Coalition that seeks to repeal and replace Section 11, Article XV of the Ohio Constitution.
"From our end, they met the beginning requirements, which is the 1,000 ballot signatures from voters and a summary of the amendment that's fair and truthful," said Lisa Hackley, spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
To place the issue on the ballot for the November general election, Ohio Freedom to Marry would have had to gather 10 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, which would be 385,253 signatures and submit them to the secretary of state 125 days prior to the general election, which would be July 4.
Those signatures would be required to come from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties. Within each one of those 44 counties, signatures must be obtained that equals 5 percent of the total vote cast in the last gubernatorial election, in this case 2010, said Matt McClellan, press secretary for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
About the Amendment Redefining
Would repeal and replace Section 11, Article XV of the Ohio Constitution.
Allows two consenting adults to enter into marriage regardless of gender.
Gives religious institutions freedom to determine who to marry and provides protection for religious institutions to refuse to perform a marriage.
The petition for the Amendment was certified as "fair and truthful" by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on April 3.
To appear on the ballot, petitioners must collect 385,253 valid signatures from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties equal to 5 percent of the vote cast in that county in the last gubernatorial election.
Source: Ohio Attorney General's Office and Ohio Secretary of State's Office
"Constitutional amendments, any of these statewide issues, they can only appear on general election ballots," McClellan said.
Freedom to Marry officials elected not to pursue putting the issue on the November 2012 general ballot, to allow more time to gather signatures and educate the public about the issue, said Ian James, co-founder of the Freedom Ohio movement.
The proposed revision to the constitution would allow two consenting adults to enter into marriage regardless of gender. It would also allow religious institutions the authority to refuse to perform or recognize a marriage.
"Marriage is between two people. It's about love and commitment. It's about honoring each other. Really, where there's love, let there be marriage," James said.
Some religious institutions and churches, however, have a different view and reject the proposed amendment despite its inclusion of the authority to elect not to perform marriages.
"As Catholics, we believe that marriage is a sacrament that was instituted by Christ for the mutual love of a man and a woman and the procreation of children," said Father Mike Campbell, of St. Mary Catholic Church in Marietta. "We believe that that is the definition of marriage, and if anything in there is lacking, that's not really marriage in our eyes."
By being married opposed to cohabiting, couples can share benefits in areas including estate planning, government, employment, medical, death, family and housing. Specific examples include the ability to inherit a share of the spouse's estate, receive Social Security benefits, receive tax benefits and obtain insurance benefits through the spouse's employer.
Currently, Section 11, Article XV of the Ohio Constitution reads "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions."
The section as it now reads was passed by voters in 2004.
Under the proposed petition, the section would read "In the State of Ohio and its political subdivisions, marriage shall be a union of two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousins, and not having a husband or wife living, and no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage."
Religious organizations and churches across the state have expressed opposition to same-sex marriages, but many local residents say it simply doesn't matter.
Marietta resident Patricia Mahoney, 35, has been married for 13 years and she and her husband have been together since they were 13 and 14.
"I (couldn't) care less. As long as they're happy, isn't that what it's all about?" Mahoney said.
Matt Friend, 42, of Marietta, agreed.
"If they want to be married, it's none of my concern," he said.
Breanna Tidd, 19, of Marietta, said she's in favor of the proposed amendment, noting it is up to people to choose how to live their lives.
"If the opposite sex is married, then I guess the same sex can be married, too," Tidd said.
James said Freedom to Marry is in no hurry to rush the issue onto the ballot, and hopes to speak to the public to create an understanding of the proposed amendment.
Church officials say that won't alter their perspective.
"We would not accept the basic premise of that law. We believe that marriage has been established for a man and a woman," Campbell said.