Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim
Hagan has stepped down as chair of an effort to repeal Ohio's gay
marriage ban as established gay rights groups express reservations
over the proposed ballot issue.
Last week, the Ballot Board cleared a
proposed amendment which would legalize gay marriage in the state.
It would repeal a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a
heterosexual union, which passed in 2004 with overwhelming support.
Nascent group Freedom to Marry Ohio now
must collect roughly 385,000 valid signatures from at least half of
Ohio's 88 counties to get their proposal on next year's ballot.
Three established gay rights groups
appear to be steering clear of the effort, each saying the timing
Freedom to Marry, the nation's largest
group devoted to the issue of marriage equality, told the Gay
People's Chronicle that it is not behind the effort.
“Ballot measures are expensive and we
need to do years of groundwork, hit benchmarks, and get the state to
where we can win,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director
for Freedom to Marry. “Getting to the ballot is the last step. It
should never be the first step.”
Ohio Public Radio reported that the
Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights
advocate, has said it also was withholding its endorsement.
Ed Mullen, executive director for
Equality Ohio, the state's largest gay rights advocate, told The
Dispatch that sufficient “research and analysis has not
been done that would make this a successful effort.”
The lack of support prompted Hagan,
Freedom to Marry Ohio's high-profile chair, to quit.
“Because there's not a unified voice,
certainly among the gay community, we need to take a step back and
make sure everybody is singing from the same hymnal,” Hagan told
Freedom to Marry Ohio is helmed by Ian
James, who also headed the group which unsuccessfully campaigned in
2004 to defeat the ban.
James brushed aside the problems,
telling the Dispatch that the ballot issue was moving forward.
“It's going to be a challenge to
overturn the marriage ban. But it has to begin sometime, and the
time is now,” said James. “We have tens of thousands of people
out there who want the freedom to marry. We are not going to let
them down. … We're not stopping.”