The Ohio Supreme Court rejected Thursday a challenge seeking to stop the Marriage Protection Amendment from being placed on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The ruling will give Ohioans an opportunity to decide whether to ban same-sex marriage on a constitutional level throughout the state.
“This is a great victory for marriage and democracy,” said Benjamin Bull, chief counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund. “And it is a great loss for advocates of same-sex ‘marriage’ that want to remove this decision from the people.”
Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values had gathered over 400,000 petitions signatures in August in place the issue before voters. The Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell later informed the group was short 42,000 of the 323,000 signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot.
Opponents had argued the initiative should be thrown out because it lacked a summary and the second petition drive to compensate for invalid petitions was not approved by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell before it was launched. Supporters of the measure contend the submitted petitions were valid.
In a 6-1 ruling, the Justices upheld a lower court’s decision rejecting a request to discard the petitions. The high court dismissed the challenges based on technicality, saying the opponents did not file the claim far enough ahead of the scheduled election.
David Langdon, an attorney of Law and Liberty Institute representing Citizens for Community Values, praised the ruling, which ended the last pending legal challenge to the initiative.
“The attack on this amendment was nothing less than an attempt to stop the people of Ohio from being heard,” said Langdon. “Their desperation to evade democracy did not succeed.”
Legal challenges to stop similar amendments have recently failed in Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, and Oklahoma.
Phil Burress, chairman of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, was pleased with the ruling but said the group could not claim victory until voters approve the proposed amendment.
"Every voter in favor of the amendment must turn out and VOTE YES to PROTECT MARRIAGE," he said in a statement.
Ohio’s proposed amendment reads, “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”
“The people will decide this matter, not a judge,” Langdon said. “Opponents of this amendment think they know what’s best for the people of Ohio, but the people will have the final say on how marriage will be recognized in their state.”
Eleven other states will vote on similar amendments on Nov. 2.