Toledo Blade: Pepper to DeWine – Stop fighting Ohio’s gay marriage ban

Published: Tuesday, 10/7/2014 – Updated: 2 weeks ago

With the Supreme Court leaving the question of same-sex marriage alone for now, the Democratic candidate for Ohio attorney general said today that Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending Ohio’s ban.

“Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court means that Americans in 30 states will likely soon enjoy marriage equality, with more to come. The longer Mr. DeWine wastes time and tax dollars fighting on the wrong side of the Constitution and history, the further behind Ohio will fall. It’s long past time to move on and move forward,” David Pepper said.

Mr. DeWine responded that that he has an obligation to defend the 2004 Constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage in Ohio.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to consider appeals from five states whose marriage bans have been struck down by federal appellate courts as unconstitutional. The ruling effectively legitimized marriages, at least for now, between two men or two women in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Mr. Pepper said it could have the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage in 30 states.

In the case pending in front of the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, plaintiffs claim that Ohio must recognize marriages performed in other states. The federal court could rule at any time.

“He should defend those laws except when those laws clearly violate the Constitution. Mike DeWine is in court trying to erase the marriage from the death certificate from a man who died last October,” Mr. Pepper said. “To be attacking a man’s marriage when he died a year ago is about as appalling a use of the job as I can think of. I’ll defend many cases I don’t agree with, but what I won’t defend is a law that’s unconstitutional.”

Mr. Pepper said Mr. DeWine has the power to simply drop the appeal, just as the Republican governor of Pennsylvania dropped his state’s appeal of a ruling against a gay marriage statute.

Mr. DeWine, a former U.S. Senator who was elected attorney general in 2010, is seeking re-election. Mr. Pepper is a former Cincinnati city councilman and former Hamilton County commissioner. Early voting for attorney general and other statewide and local offices and ballot questions began today.

Mr. DeWine said Mr. Pepper misunderstands the job he’s running for.

“I don’t have, as attorney general, the luxury of deciding which parts of Ohio’s constitution to defend. If the voters of Ohio 10 years ago had voted to allow gay marriage and that was in the Ohio Constitution Ii would defend that against attack. This is what the atty general does. It’s one more example that David Pepper doesn‘t get it,” Mr. DeWine said.

He noted that former Democratic state Attorney General Lee Fisher once defended an anti-abortion statute that he personally disagreed with but that had “a reasonable constitutional basis.”

Mr. DeWine reiterated his personal belief marriage should be only between a man and a woman, but added, “my personal opinion has nothing to do with it.”

Mr. Pepper noted that Mr. DeWine earlier this year gave his personal opinion about an Ohio law that was up for constitutional review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, Mr. DeWine defended the law under which candidates and groups can be punished for knowingly make false statements in political ads, but personally filed a brief agreeing with the plaintiffs that the law has a “potentially chilling effect” on free speech.

DeWine spokesman Ryan Stubenbrauch said a difference between the campaign advertising law and the same-sex marriage law is that the first was a statute enacted a long time ago by the General Assembly while the gay-marriage ban was approved by Ohio voters less than 10 years ago.

A federal district judge in Cincinnati in April struck down the part of Ohio’s ban on gay marriage when it comes to recognizing marriages legally performed in other states.

Contact Tom Troy: or 419-724-6058 or on Twitter @TomFTroy.