If Marriage is on Ballot in 2014, Gov. Kasich Will Be a Big Winner

 In football, they call it a false start.

You know the drill: the left tackle, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of a rabid pass rusher and struggling to hear the play count over the roars of an opposing crowd, jumps the gun and moves before the snap. Flag. Five yard penalty. Lost ground for the offense.

One month ago, the same-sex marriage movement in Ohio may have called itself on its own false start. After a day of meeting with national same-sex marriage (SSM) advocacy groups, Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, proudly announced plans to introduce a ballot initiative in 2014 aimed at overturning the 2004 Marriage Amendment.[1]

Gay marriage advocates have vowed to roll back this relic of pre-enlightened culture and overturn it with an amendment of their own.  But there seems to be apprehension, concern, and even conflicting messages regarding James’ promise of 2014.

Right after Ian James proclaimed they were gunning for 2014, Equality Ohio and national SSM groups backtracked from that date, even going so far as asserting that James “must have attended a different meeting than the rest of us.”  (Read an excellent recap of that chaotic afternoon.)

There has been much discussion and deliberation as to the most opportune year to challenge the Marriage Amendment. Even if SSM advocates can gather the 500,000 signatures needed to get something on the ballot, the SSM brain trust seems to regard 2013 or 2014 (or any year for that matter) a precarious gamble:

Do they push it in 2013, a year when, electorally, crickets are in full force, with county dog catcher seeming to be the highest office up for grabs?  History has shown that many conservatives will still vote because that’s what citizens are supposed to do. The Left, however, without a senatorial, gubernatorial, or presidential election, seldom fires up its entire Get Out the Vote Machine in an off year.[2]

Some argue that SSM has a better chance with more voter turnout in 2014, when the Left will be gunning to dethrone Governor Kasich. There’s the risk, however, that more turnout will bring out more Republicans–or even socially conservative Democrats who might vote against Kasich, yet also vote against SSM.

Either way, 2013 or 2014 is uncertain. Sure, SSM has gained astounding cultural traction.[3]  And yes, three states voted for it in 2012 (Maryland, Maine, and Washington).  But the SSM score is still 32-3, with 32 states having preserved marriage.  And Ohio has more folks who “cling to their guns and their Bibles” (as Pres. Obama once described) than Maine or Washington state.  Moreover, the 2004 battle was a blowout. The cultural onslaught has been swift, led by influential messaging from the media, and has definitely made inroads–especially amongst young voters–but enough to make up a 24-point gap in 10 years?  Even some SSM proponents realize that’s unlikely.

So as SSM advocates weigh their chances, debate over which year gives them the best chance at victory, and try to sort through their embarrassing miscommunication, let’s play out James’s hypothetical 2014 date and discover the one person who will benefit most from a 2014 ballot date:

Governor John Kasich.

Surprised? Don’t be. Whenever marriage has been in limbo, hanging on the outcome of voters’ ballots, social conservatives have flooded the polls in full force.

In 2004, many analysts and journalists credited Ohio’s marriage amendment with winning reelection for George W. Bush. The Boston Globe went as far as saying that John Kerry’s bid was “doomed” as soon as CCV President Phil Burress set up a meeting to get a marriage amendment on the ballot. The Globe acknowledged that there were several factors involved in Bush’s re-election, but declared that “the ballot initiative in Ohio . . . proved the most critical to the presidential race.”[4]  Evangelicals poured out to the polls in full force, giving Bush the edge over challenger John Kerry.  In fact, over 469,000 more people voted for the marriage amendment than voted for Bush.[5]

More telling are election results from the three states that changed their definition of marriage in 2012. In all three, more people voted for marriage to stay as between one man and one woman than voted for Mitt Romney.  Look at Maryland specifically: Mitt Romney won less than 37% of the vote even though almost 48% of Maryland voters chose to preserve marriage as between one man and one woman. Marriage received more than 250,000 more votes than Mitt Romney.[6]

The media would have us believe that almost all Democrats and even some Republicans are voting for SSM.  These election results, however, seem to show the opposite: almost all Republicans and even some Democrats (those who are more conservative on social issues) are voting against SSM.[7]

The fact is that the issue of marriage turns out socially conservative voters like few others, even if they don’t love the Republican nominee on the same ballot.  And in Ohio, social conservatives are a sleeping giant.  Much to the chagrin of Romney, McCain, Mike Dewine, and others, if they don’t trust you, or if you cross them, they will routinely stay home. [Read on OCR: “Kasich, Portman Should Brace for Consequences.”]

It’s not much of a stretch to believe that the large majority of these voters, after voting to preserve marriage and religious liberty, will reject socially liberal Democrat Ed Fitzgerald and give Governor Kasich another four years.

In the wake of conservative concerns over the direction of the Ohio Republican Party, and their disdain over the governor’s handling of Medicaid expansion and Obamacare,[8] Kasich has recently re-emphasized his social conservative pro-life and pro-marriage views. Consequently, he could enjoy a bump at the polls similar to the one that propelled Bush to a second term in ’04.

Will putting SSM on ballot in 2014 be a false start that costs proponents significant ground–a defeat of the issue, plus the governorship to boot?  Probably.

Could the application of the Supreme Court’s recent rogue decision make much of this a moot point?[9]  Possibly.

But if marriage is indeed on the ballot in Ohio in 2014, will it help John Kasich’s reelection prospects?


Featured-ColumnistAdam Josefczyk is Vice President of Operations for Citizens for Community Values and Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ohio Conservative Review.

All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.

[1] In 2004, Ohioans voted overwhelmingly–62-38%–to approve an amendment defining marriage in Ohio as between one man and one woman.

[2] As we’ve seen all too recently (2008 and 2012), the Left has an amazing GOTV machine, with unions, early voting, the Democratic Party, and interest groups out in full force.

[7] The fact that marriage receives more votes than the Republican candidates could mean that Republican candidates are failing to convince and secure their own base (who sometimes abstain or vote third party).  But it could also mean that some socially conservative Democrats voted for the Democrat but also voted against gay marriage.