COLUMBUS, OH (Talon News) — Ohio House Bill 272 (HB272), the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, passed the Ohio Senate. Since the bill was amended in the Senate Finance Committee, the Ohio House members will need to vote again to concur with the Senate’s version.
Both amendments were accepted in committee without objection. The first amendment was a technical clarification. The second amendment closed a potential loophole for same sex couples who may seek a marriage license in another state/country under a common law marriage statute. The amendment forbids this in Ohio’s statutes. Amended Substitute House Bill 272 is expected to receive a House floor vote next week.
The 73-23 vote in the Republican-controlled House on DOMA in December suggests that a conference process probably won’t be necessary.
By the middle of next week, Ohio will be the 38th state to enact DOMA legislation. Republican Governor Bob Taft has said he will sign DOMA into law.
The progress of the bill was being watched nationwide, as it represented the first state effort to protect a state’s definition of marriage after the Massachusetts Superior Judicial Court ruled by a 4-3 vote that the state’s marriage law did not pass court scrutiny. Citizens and legislators from across the country have expressed concern that activist judges would not respect long standing state definitions of marriage, and it was widely thought that the Ohio vote was given greater urgency by the one vote judicial margin in Massachusetts.
“This is a great victory for Ohio citizens and sends a progressive message that says Ohioans take seriously their responsibility to govern wisely, prudently and from the middle,” said one local Republican official, referring to the wide public support for Ohio’s current definition of marriage as being a union between one man and one woman.”
“This is a tremendous victory for the unique place of civil marriage in Ohio and one that has put Ohio in the forefront of what could become a continuing national trend,” the Republican said. “Ohioans can sleep well tonight knowing that 18 Senators had both the wisdom and the guts to do the right thing.”
An Ohio Senate committee held close to 9 hours of hearings the day before sending the measure to the full chamber for a vote, but the measure had been debated on and off for over two years. The final vote was 18-15, with 4 Republicans joining all the Senate Democrats to vote against the marriage bill. House passage had been more bipartisan.
Commenting on the opposition to the bill, the same official noted, “It is sad to see some Republican legislators join Democrats who should know better in caving into liberal interest group pressure. As the fall of Marxism demonstrated, those who support these leftist social engineering schemes end up on the wrong side of both history and progress.”
The bill declares same-sex and multiple partner marriages to be against the “strong public policy” of Ohio. State law already limits marriage to a man and a woman, but bill sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and other legislators were concerned Ohio still could be required to recognize legal marriages from other states.
Proponents noted that “radical” family law scholars are openly calling for the acceptance of polyamory and multiple sexual partner arrangements, contending that they are comparable to monogamous marriage between a husband and wife. This and other sexual practices were described in the New Republic article, “Beyond Gay Marriage” that was referenced in H.B. 272 sponsor testimony.
Rep. Seitz said the bill would also keep courts from forcing Ohio to offer state health and pension benefits that are associated with marriage to unmarried partners.
“My concern is the cost of having the courts rewrite our statutes in ways we did not intend,” Seitz said, repeating an oft expressed concern about the propensity of some judges to substitute their judgment for that of the citizenry.
A spokesman for Governor Bob Taft repeated assurances that the governor supported efforts to protect the current definition of marriage and that he plans to sign the DOMA bill.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, thirty-seven states, with a combined population of about 213 million Americans, have enacted DOMA laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman. These laws provide that the states enacting DOMA don’t have to recognize same-sex or multiple partner unions solemnized in other states.
The only states that currently do not have a DOMA law are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Of those, New Mexico is expected to consider a constitutional amendment to reaffirm the definition of marriage, as is Wisconsin, where a bipartisan majority fell one vote short of overriding a veto by Democrat Governor Jim Doyle.
Connecticut, Maryland, and New Hampshire are likely to consider DOMA bills later this year, making Ohio part of a renewed 2004 trend on an issue that has drawn fire from those involved with homosexuality and other liberal interest groups.
On the eve of the Ohio Senate vote, President George W. Bush repeated his support for the traditional definition of marriage in his State of the Union address, stating, “Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”
Among opponents testifying against the DOMA measure were Ohioans for Growth and Equality, a group primarily composed of activists involved with homosexuality and partly funded from out of state liberal groups. They were particularly critical of language in the bill interpreted as keeping unmarried sexual partners of state employees from claiming benefits given to those who are married.
Proponents of the Ohio marriage bill emphasized how mainstream it was to reaffirm Ohio marriage law. They included the Columbus Baptist Pastors’ Conference and the Baptist Ministerial Alliance and Vicinity, organizations which are made up primarily of African-American churches and ministers in the Columbus, Ohio area.
Bishop Fred Marshall submitted written testimony to the Senate committee on behalf of the Conference and Ministerial Alliance stating that both organizations “supported Ohio House Bill 272’s effort to prevent the possible judicially decreed expansion of the definition of marriage beyond the definition and scope of one man and one woman… Marriage has been and still is the foundation of American society. It is a social good that is worthy of the support, promotion and unique place of honor it has historically received under the law.”
”Bill Summary (as provided by Ohio’s Legislative Service Commission):”
*Declares that same-sex marriages are against the strong public policy of the state of Ohio and have no legal force or effect in this state.
*Provides that same-sex marriages entered into in another jurisdiction have no legal force or effect in Ohio.
*Declares that the recognition or extension by the state of the specific statutory benefits of legal marriage to nonmarital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is against the strong public policy of the state of Ohio.
*Provides that any other jurisdiction’s extension of the specific benefits of legal marriage to nonmarital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes has no legal force or effect in Ohio.