Ohio Attempts to Set Marriage Definition in Stone

January 21, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Lawmakers in Ohio are contemplating a measure that would prevent Ohio from recognizing same-sex marriages and keep some state employees from getting benefits for their domestic partners.

Under the proposed legislation, same-sex marriages would be “against the strong public policy of the state.” Additionally, unmarried partners of state employees would be prohibited from receiving benefits received by married partners, according to an Associated Press report.

However, the legislation would allow exceptions, including employees who gain such rights in negotiating under collective bargaining. Also, the measure would not apply to local governments or private companies.

The legislation is currently in a Senate committee, and if it passes, would then go before the full Ohio Senate. Provided a version of the bill that passed through the state House of Representatives is not amended, the legislation would then land on Ohio Governor Bob Taft’s desk. Taft has previously indicated he supports the measure, provided the approved bill does not prevent private companies from offering domestic partner benefits.

This is not the first go round for such a proposal. Similar bills have been introduced in each legislative session since the debate was originally picked up in 1996. However, former Senate President Richard Finan, a Republican, blocked its passage, saying state law already took care of the matter. Finan left the state Senate in 2003 due to term limit restrictions.

Picking up the cause for the latest session was Republican Representative Bill Seitz. Seitz points to a ruling in Massachusetts that declared the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and the possible effects the ruling might have on Ohio as reason enough to pass the measure ( See Mass. Supreme Court: Gay Couples Entitled to Legal Marriage Rights ).