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Ohio lawmakers pass bill banning gay marriage

The Ohio Senate passed a law Wednesday that would bar the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ohio lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that would ban same-sex marriages and prohibit state employees from getting benefits for domestic partners.

The bill, which passed the state Senate 18-15, is considered among the most far-reaching of its kind in the nation because of the ban on benefits.

The Ohio House has already approved the bill, and Republican Gov. Bob Taft has said he will sign it, pending a legal review.

The measure, which says same-sex marriages are “against the strong public policy of the state,” aims to counter a 1934 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to recognize marriages from other states in most circumstances.

Thirty-seven states have passed laws recognizing marriage as a sacrament between men and women.

Ohio is the second state, after Nebraska, that would prohibit benefits for state employees’ unmarried partners, said Seth Kilbourn, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay and lesbian lobbying group.

Perennial issueOhio lawmakers struggled with the issue for seven years, when then-Rep. Jay Hottinger introduced a bill in the House. Hottinger, now a senator, said the bill was not an attack on homosexuals but rather was meant to protect a traditional definition of marriage.

“Ohio must be able to clearly establish and define our own laws, rather than have another state or country define something as important as marriage,” said Hottinger, a Republican.

Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a Democrat from Cleveland, said the bill would hurt Ohio by limiting the ability of businesses and universities to attract talented people.

“If we pass this bill, get up tomorrow and look in the mirror,” Fingerhut said, “smiling back at you is someone who has slowed Ohio’s progress by putting up a sign to people that says, ‘We don’t want you here.’”

The vote came despite opposition by some large companies. Dayton-based NCR Corp. sent a letter to lawmakers Dec. 12 saying the bill could hurt the company’s ability to attract and retain employees.

Similar bills have been introduced in each session since Hottinger first introduced the legislation. But former Senate President Richard Finan, a Republican, blocked its passage. He said state law already took care of the matter.