Ohioans split on gay marriage, poll finds

Half of Ohio registered voters support same-sex marriage with the strongest backers being young people, Democrats and women, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday. But it is unclear whether gay marriage will eventually come to Ohio via the courts or the ballot box.

The poll shows 43 percent of voters are opposed to gay marriage.

“The future of same-sex marriage in Ohio is now before the courts, but if it were up to voters, the issue would be close to a tossup, with support just hitting 50 percent,” said Peter Brown, assistant poll director. “There is a direct correlation between age and views of gay marriage and the partisan split is stark with Democrats strongly in favor and Republicans adamantly opposed.”

In 2004, 62 percent of Ohio voters said yes to a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman and bars state and local government from recognizing other unions.

But Quinnipiac University polls show public opinion in Ohio has shifted in recent years:

* May 2014 - 50 percent support

* February 2014 - 50 percent support

* April 2013 - 48 percent support

* December 2012 - 45 percent support.

“The majority of people in Ohio support marriage equality, which is great news, and we expect that support to continue to grow,” said Michael Premo, director of Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a public education campaign. “What I’ve been saying all along is that marriage equality is inevitable in Ohio whether it’s through the courts or through the ballot box. The freedom to marry will be won for all loving, committed couples. It’s just not a question of if, it’s just a question of when and how.”

For the past year or more there has been a divide in the gay-rights community about when to seek a statewide ballot issue to overturn the ban on same sex marriage in Ohio. The dispute has recently simmered down when FreedomOhio leader Ian James agreed to circulate a re-worded petition and not seek to put the issue before voters in 2014.

Why Marriage Matters Ohio, which includes Equality Ohio Education Fund, the ACLU Foundation of Ohio, national Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, were concerned that voter support might not be solid enough to win in 2014.

Meanwhile, several court cases are pending in U.S. District Courts and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that address the same-sex marriage question or just slices of it, such as the right to have same sex parents who were legally married out of state listed on a birth certificate in Ohio.

“To be honest I think one of the most interesting cases going forward right now was filed in North Carolina by UCC (United Church of Christ) and some other religious organizations, saying that their religious freedom and right to association are limited by the constitutional bans on marriage because they limit their ability to go ahead and perform legal marriages in their churches if and when they want to,” said Elyzabeth Holford, director of the statewide gay rights advocacy group Equality Ohio. “So there is quite a bit going on in the courts. It’s kind of exciting.”

Ohioans don’t support allowing college athletes to unionize

The Quinnipiac University poll also found that Ohio voters think unions are good, but college athletes should not be allowed to form a union to negotiate their own working conditions.

Fifty-five percent of Ohio voters oppose unions for college athletes while 38 percent support them and 62 percent of voters are against paying the athletes while 32 percent like the idea, the poll found.

A majority — 52 percent — say unions in general are good for the country. Nearly two-thirds of the voters described themselves as college sports fans but 55 percent say “colleges are losing sight of their academic mission because of sports.”

“Ohioans may love their Buckeyes, and they have a favorable view of unions, but they don’t think the two should meet,” said Brown in a written statement. “Only Democrats and voters under 35 favor allowing college athletes to unionize. But not even they support the idea of college athletes receiving salaries in addition to the value of their scholarships. A majority think colleges are losing sight of their academic mission with the emphasis on athletics, but don’t expect any empty seats in the ‘Horseshoe’ in the fall.”

The poll surveyed 1,174 registered Ohio voters from May 7 to May 12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

About the Author