Ohio might replace outgoing Republican Senator George Voinovich with a gay marriage backer. The move would mark a turning point for Ohio which passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans in the country five years ago.

Frontrunners vying for the Democratic ticket – Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner – both back gay marriage.

Writing at the Huffington Post, Brunner said: “It is time to make that right available to all American couples, whether they are heterosexual or same-sex. This is a family values issue.”

Fisher's support while softer is a flip into the marriage equality column. The fifty-seven-year-old recently told Cleveland daily The Plain Dealer that “the government should be focused on creating jobs, lowering health care costs and moving us to alternative energy, instead of trying to stop individuals who want to be in a committed relationship and take responsibility for each other.”

In contrast, Fisher has previously said he backed civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, not marriage.

“I am in favor of civil unions, but I have questions about marriage,” Fisher told gay weekly The Gay People's Chronicle in April.

And in a 2006 Project Vote Smart Survey, Fisher said he did not believe the Ohio government should recognize gay marriage.

Voinovich, who is not seeking re-election, ranks low on gay and lesbian issues. His current HRC score improved – from zero to 60 – after he flipped his position on support for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, but remains doggedly opposed to gay marriage and adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes.

On the other hand, Ohio's junior senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, is a gay ally.