GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s decision to shift his position in favor of gay marriage has sparked enthusiasm among those on both sides of the argument in Ohio.
Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati-based group that opposes gay marriage, thinks it has momentum on its side, despite Portman’s change of heart, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports
“I can't look into the future, but I just don't ever see [legalization of same-sex marriage in Ohio] happening,” Phil Burress, president of CCV, tells the paper.
“This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and, like Judeo-Christian beliefs, every major religion is opposed to same-sex marriage. You can't allow same-sex marriage until you destroy all religions.”
In 2004, CCV helped lead the successful effort for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
But now an opposing group, FreedomOhio, is working to overturn that amendment and have gay marriage legalized. The group says it may succeed in getting the issue on the ballot as soon as November, helped by Portman.
“The senator's coming-out in support of freedom to marry has absolutely re-energized the campaign,” Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, tells The Plain Dealer. “This is a monumentally huge step in Ohio— a battleground state— for the marriage equality movement.”
Portman's move may help FreedomOhio collect the nearly 386,000 signatures it needs to put its measure on the ballot, James says.
CCV’s Burress is unmoved by FreedomOhio’s enthusiasm, and he’s not happy about Portman’s decision.
He challenged FreedomOhio to “bring it on,” adding, “They think they have the momentum to win. The election will be decided by the grass-roots efforts, which is where we are at our best.”
Burress said Portman called him hours before announcing the shift in his stance. “I thought he was going to ask me for help, then he knocked me over when he said he was going to change his position publicly.
“He's put the party at risk because he will probably lose his seat,” Burress contends. Portman, who is not up for re-election until 2016, will be given an “unacceptable for public office” designation on the CCV web site.
“He has definitely put himself in the crosshairs for the next election,” the conservative activist said. “You can't win an election in Ohio without the evangelical vote.”
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has taken a much more embracing stance toward the Ohio senator.
“I’m trying to show what leadership looks like . . . by not throwing Rob Portman under the bus,” he told Politico. “I’m trying to lead by example and reaffirm that we’re not compromising our principles either.”
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