Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Media blitz begins for Ohio's Issue 1
By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS - Opponents of state Issue 1 are hitting the airwaves with ads that barely mention the word "gay," instead framing the same-sex marriage proposal as harmful to Ohio seniors and the economy.
"It's not a gay issue," said Alan Melamed, chairman of the coalition that opposes the constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and public domestic partner benefits for unmarried couples.
"Whether this amendment fails or succeeds, the definition of marriage in Ohio is the same," he added, noting state law defines marriage as between a man and woman. "It's the (proponents) trying to make it about gay marriage because they know it's a hot-button issue."
Opponents began spending more than $1.5 million to air three anti-Issue 1 ads. The ads repeatedly call the amendment "extreme," with consequences for all unmarried couples.
Each ad ends with the phrase, "It could hurt you."
But while opponents are talking about property rights and jobs, Phil Burress, leader of the Cincinnati-based group trying to pass the amendment, said he's ready to respond with upwards of $1 million in television ads.
He called the opposition ads "scare tactics," and said his effort is entirely about gay marriage, responding to court rulings in Massachusetts that made gay marriage legal.
"Our whole campaign is about marriage between one man and one woman," he said. "If it's anything other than that, I don't know what it can be."
The amendment is necessary to prevent judges from one day forcing Ohio to accept gay marriages or to keep them from renaming marriage as civil unions, Burress said.
His group has already placed phone calls to 3.3 million households, in which a recording of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell urges a vote for the amendment. Supporters also have sent 2.5 million bulletin inserts to 17,000 churches, and have been running radio ads featuring Blackwell.
Herb Asher, a political science professor at Ohio State University, said he got one of those calls from Blackwell. He found it unusual that the state's top elections official was trying to tell him how to vote. In addition, he said Blackwell's message that Issue 1 is simply about gay marriage isn't true.
"It really is more of a fundamentalist amendment that is imposing a very narrow view of social relationships," Asher said.
The amendment's first sentence defines marriage between a man and a woman. But the second sentence has drawn controversy because it forbids legal status for unmarried individuals "that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."
Critics, including Republicans Gov. Bob Taft, Attorney General Jim Petro and U.S. Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, say that second sentence is too broad and could have unwanted consequences on unmarried couples and the state economy.
The University of Cincinnati Ohio Poll published Oct. 22 showed Issue 1 passing 56 percent to 40 percent.
Issue 1 opponents on Monday filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, alleging that the pro-Issue 1 group did not fully report its contributions and expenditures last week. Burress says the law was followed.
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