What’s the matter with Ohio?

From a Salon story on Issue 1, the anti-gay marriage measure in my native state. If you think gay marriage is a bad idea, meet your people:

As the conflict between Ohio’s civic and business leaders and the cadres of the religious right suggests, the fight over Issue 1 is more than a just a contest between Republicans and Democrats. Rather, it’s a battle in a larger struggle between stolid Middle American moderation and the mega-churched, hot-blooded moralism that is sweeping through much of the country.

This dynamic is on stark display on Friday, Oct. 8, when Columbus community leaders, activists and concerned citizens gather for a luncheon debate on Issue 1. Organized by the Columbus Metropolitan Club, a local civic group, the event is held in a second-floor dining room at the Columbus Athletic Club, an elegant place full of burnished dark wood and chandeliers. Several local businesspeople are there, including Cheryl McClellan. Every chair is taken.

The debate is between Melamed and Patrick Johnston, a physician and vice chairman of the Ohio branch of the far-right Constitution Party. Johnston isn’t officially affiliated with Burress’ group, Citizens for Community Values, but the two men worked together collecting signatures to put Issue 1 on the ballot, and Johnston says they talk often. He’s also close to Minutemen United, whose members have turned up to support him at past speaking engagements.

Melamed, a distinguished-looking, gray-haired man in a well-cut blue suit and burgundy tie, begins the debate by emphasizing the likely legal and economic fallout from Issue 1. But Johnston, a blond, pink-faced 33-year-old, has no intention of arguing on Melamed’s terms. “Even if Ohio would be better off, gays should not be allowed to marry,” he says, because homosexuality is a sin that “merits discrimination.” In fact, he says, “I support and endorse the criminalization of homosexuality.”

Preaching like a street-corner revivalist, Johnston musters quotes from both the Bible and Dostoevski to make the tautological argument that those who reject his vision of Christianity lack the foundation to make any moral arguments. “The proof for the Christian ethic which condemns homosexual marriage is the impossibility of the contrary,” he says. “Reject the Christian ethic and you have no basis for making moral judgments.”

The audience stares at him in open-mouthed amazement. Looking like she’s been slapped, McClellan walks out of the room and starts crying. “My father was a D-Day lander and a World War II hero,” she says later. “He freed two concentration camps. All I could think of was here are all of these people who have fought and given their lives to keep our country free of maniacal people like that guy. This guy reminded me of a Hitler youth. At this stage of our evolution, why is there such a maniacal hatred of people?”

Oh, Miss Cheney, what a big … tent you have!

Posted at 3:18 pm in Uncategorized |

26 responses to “What’s the matter with Ohio?”

  1. Danny said on October 18, 2004 at 3:59 pm

    Nance, I know that your argument is not with Christian ethics, in general, it is mostly with this guy that thinks homosexuals should be thrown in jail. I do not agree with him nor defend him, but I do think liberals (not necessarily you) tend to set up strawman arguments along the lines that people like this are representative of Christians and conservatives. I wish it were not so because I think it makes it so easy for us, as a country, to devolve into name-calling and as you put it so well a few years ago, to enter that “bottomless pit of contempt” that both sides of the political spectrum have for one another.

    Just because one is socially conservative does not mean that one is stupid nor hateful.

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  2. wanderindiana said on October 18, 2004 at 4:28 pm


    When the POTUS and Republican Senate and House leaders decide they want to amend the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage, and use this political plan during election season to attract votes, don’t blame “liberals” for setting up strawman arguments.

    One’s sexual preference is about as much of a choice as one’s politics: both sex and politics are reflective of the individual’s core, of who they are deep down inside, and that’s not arbitrary at all.

    Call yourself “socially conservative”, but if you support an amendment making gay marriage illegal, you are denying someone their civil rights. You might as well pass an amendment to the Constitution forbidding Democrats to marry, or Blacks, or Mexicans.

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  3. Nance said on October 18, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    True, Danny (although the right does this all the time, too). And it should be noted that lots of prominent Republicans — the governor, and others — don’t support Issue 1. But I guess this goes to the where-are-the-moderate-Muslims argument. Why is Salon, the liberal online magazine, doing this story, and not the National Review? Because this moronic legislation will pass — it’s up by a 2-1 margin — and then there’ll be hell to pay.

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  4. brian stouder said on October 18, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    I actually agree with John Kerry’s definition of marriage, sorta…and then his weak-kneed opposition to the president’s theatrical dead-letter ammendment, and his advocacy of leaving the issue with the states leads us to votes like the one Ohio is about to have…

    … and being an avid reader of Lincoln history (and the evolving and quite interesting historiography), votes like the one Ohio is about to have sound a lot like “popular sovereignty” – and one cannot acquiesce or adapt a “don’t care” attitude, when a person or a group wants to vote away another person’s liberty.

    I have a serious question which will look like an argumentative one, but it is not:

    On what basis do we tell people that marriage can only consist of TWO people? The “defintion of marriage”, whatever it is, ends up being arbitrary, no?

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  5. alex said on October 18, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    The states’ rights argument offends me; if we’d left it to the states on the question of slavery, it would never have been abolished. We’re perilously close to turning women’s right to abortion over to the states. Even if federal law allows it, the sharpshooters in the “pro-life” movement have made it all but impossible to get one in many parts of the country.

    I know that Kerry’s doing what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had to do with regard to slavery. To endorse the right thing would have been political suicide for them, and it still is today for a man like Kerry. I can’t fault him there, frankly.

    As for straw men, neither party holds a corner on virtue. Myself, I might very well be a Republican if the Republicans were as moderate now as they were in the ’60s and ’70s. We forget that Nixon ushered in the area of consumer redress. We forget that Barry Goldwater disavowed before his death the neocon movement that had championed him as a great pioneer of what they’re doing these days when in fact there’s no comparison.

    The states’ rightists favor states’ rights only when the states in question are pursuing the right-wing agenda. Note how it changes when states try to adopt sensible law regarding things like gay rights or gun control or the legality of smoking ditchweed.

    The colonies were a disparate lot; folks in Massachussetts would have felt genocide against their neighbors in the Delaware Valley justified. The “witches” they burned were heretics, which is to say people who exercised freedom of conscience.

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  6. Nance said on October 18, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    As my sister points out, if the state of Ohio did nothing on this issue, it’s not as though gay people could marry anyway. Ohio is hardly Massachusetts; I’d say that legal milestone would be some time coming.

    But. Issue 1 would prohibit any state-supported institution from offering domestic-partner benefits, which means Ohio’s universities would be up a creek. Like it or not, this is the way of the world at progressive — which is to say, competitive — companies and institutions. Do away with that, and you might as well change the name of the state to Alabama and be done with it.

    I’m sure that evangelical yo-yo at the Athletic Club twirled some GOP toupees, but having just finished “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” I say: Good. Rockefeller Republicans, time to meet your strange bedfellows. They look different in the cold morning light, don’t they?

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  7. Danny said on October 18, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    Alex, I do not mean to be confrontational with you or anyone on this forum, as I figure many of you do not share my view. But I really want to make it clear that myself and MANY others consider the word “abortion” a convenient euphemism for baby-killing.

    My wife and I spent this weekend in Marin county (near San Fran) for a wedding. The photographer was this really nice woman that my wife and I enjoyed talking with a bit at the reception. She was about 5 months pregnant and mentioned that she had gotten a genetic test and therefore knew the sex of the child. Later that night I asked her about why she got that particular test. She replied that her doctor said that since she was 36, she should to make sure that everything was okay. She then nonchalantly quipped that since she was not particularly religious, she would just get rid of the baby if ANYTHING was wrong. I did not let on, but I felt like I had just been punched in the stomach. I wonder if the color rushed from my face as I pondered whether the test revealed the child would have the acceptable eye and hair color.

    I am sorry to burden you all with a description of my inward emotional response, but I really think we can do better as a society.

    On most other issues, I could vote Democrat if there was an anti-baby killing option. In reality, Alex, the mellower Democrats of yesteryear would also be fine with me.

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  8. alex said on October 18, 2004 at 7:38 pm


    As a gay man, I understand completely where you’re coming from regarding baby killing. When one day they finally find the gene sequence that makes gay people gay, there will probably be an in utero test for it. I would be appalled to think that people would kill their gay babies.

    At the same time, I’ve known many women who’ve aborted, and not for such reasons. They have to live with their own conscience. It’s not a joyride. It’s not a form of birth control. A woman who’s in an abusive relationship in which the father maintains ties for no other reason than to harass her has my blessing if she wants to terminate a pregnancy, as does a woman whose conscientious efforts at birth control have failed.

    None of us who are pro-choice believes that abortion is a good thing. If it were up to me, it should never have to happen. But to my way of thinking a woman’s body is her own. Reasonable people can disagree about this. I wish those on the other side were as respectful of my beliefs as I am of theirs. In fact, I believe there could be very reasonable compromises on when to allow abortion if both sides were willing to give a little rather demand all or nothing.

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  9. danno said on October 18, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    To Danny –

    When you can birth a child and/or if you’re legally unable to marrying the person you love, call me…until then, quiet thy piehole.

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  10. Nance said on October 18, 2004 at 9:50 pm

    Blah blah blah. Just testing.

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  11. Nance said on October 18, 2004 at 9:52 pm

    OK, that’s weird. Danny tried to post the following and was denied for “inappropriate content.” Hmm. Anyway, here goes:

    Alex, I agree with and respect your comments. I just wish that our elected officials could do something wise and wonderful for a change. Something that would bring us together.

    It would also be super if some good programs were in place to nuture women in difficulty and to encourage those who feel they cannot keep a child to consider adoption more thoroughly.� Making adoption more affordable would be very cool too. My wife and I have a lot of love to give a child.� We just don’t have $10-20k sitting around for the process.

    Thanks for your thoughtful reponse.

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  12. Danny said on October 18, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    Nance, weird! It appears that the objectional part of that sentence was the word, “b a n n e d.” How odd. Thanks for helping me. I know it is later in your time zone and that you have a little one too.

    Danno, in the case of child bearing, I speak for my wife. In the latter case, when I was 14 I wanted to marry Farrah Fawcett and could not.

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  13. ashley said on October 18, 2004 at 11:35 pm

    “The states’ rights argument offends me; if we’d left it to the states on the question of slavery, it would never have been abolished.”

    So we’d still have slavery today, huh?

    I respectfully disagree.

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  14. Nance said on October 19, 2004 at 4:56 am

    No, but I think it’s reasonable to assume it might have persisted, in some states, into the 20th century. But if we want to talk about the Civil War, we’ll have to start a new thread. Hell, a new blog.

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  15. Lex said on October 19, 2004 at 6:16 am

    As usual, I’m late to the game, but:

    Danny, I don’t think Nance was suggesting that all Christians were like this. On the contrary: Johnston’s claim, “Refute the Christian ethic and you have no basis for making moral judgments” is not just invalid but also absurd on its face, as I think many, if not most, Christians would agree. We as a species didn’t just start making moral judgments 2,000 years ago.

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  16. John said on October 19, 2004 at 10:03 am

    Just when you think you have heard all the anti-gay rhetoric:


    In the Illinois Senate race, Marylander Alan Keyes has opposed gay couples raising children saying: “If we do not know who the mother is, who the father is, without knowing all the brothers and sisters, i n c e s t becomes inevitable.”


    One more great reason to break out the pitchforks and torches.

    Note: the broken up word flunked the smell test for questionable content.

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  17. 4dbirds said on October 19, 2004 at 10:26 am

    Choice is choice and it doesn’t matter what the motivation is, only the pregnant woman has a right to decide what to do with her body. I don’t care if someone was raped or if she doesn’t want a baby with blue eyes, a right to choose is a right to choose. With anything less, women are only chattel. Life is ugly and messy sometimes.

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  18. danno said on October 19, 2004 at 10:44 am

    Danny, are you sure your wife wants you to speak for her?? Is she that uninformed to make a decision on her own? This is 2004, not 1804. By golly, she can even vote now!!

    You can legally wed any woman you please, Farrah’s hand would have meant her having the taste to wed you, not a law.

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  19. Danny said on October 19, 2004 at 11:05 am

    danno, you should be ashamed of yourself. Are you so insecure of your own political opinions that you must resort to the absurd? My wife would probably slap your face if you said the above in front of her. We talk about EVERYTHING and she usually tells me not only what she thinks, but what I should think and that is just one of the many reasons I love and respect her.

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  20. danno said on October 19, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    I didn’t know true Christians resorted to such violence?! Tut, tut my man. And yes, I am ashamed…ashamed that I wasted time chatting with an obviously uptighty-righty.

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  21. Nance said on October 19, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Now, now, boys. Let’s calm down here. I don’t know how we got off-topic into abortion, feminism and slavery, but that’s how discussions go. I’m still interested in this Issue 1 business, and how it weaves together with this shocked-shocked act the GOP is doing over Mary Cheney. I may need another post for a few more links, but…

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  22. Danny said on October 19, 2004 at 2:31 pm

    Nance and all, sorry to cause such a stir on the board. I like your writing, Nancy, your take on issues and pop culture, and your sense of humor and plan to stick around, in a low profile manner.

    danno, just one final word and I will leave it at that: your first post told me to shut up, your second accused me of patriarchal dominance of my wife, and your third called me names. You call that chatting?

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  23. Danny said on October 19, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    You know, getting back on topic, last night I saw an interview by Tim Russert with two contenders for a South Carolina Senate seat. Both wiggled around uncomfortably on social issues, but the Republican, Jim DeMint, REALLY took the cake.

    Russert played a video sound bite where this dude stated that homosexuals should not be allowed to teach in public schools! When pressed further, he would only say that he had apologized for making comments that took the focus off of the important issues. What a loser. This guy should not be walking around the streets, much less in power in DC.

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  24. danno said on October 19, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    Danny, got that last word in, good for you! Besides that nonsense, I’m too upset now that I’ve heard that Henry’s has burned. Nancy, please console us with a blog. I bartended there for 4 years, lots of good, good memories.

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  25. Nance said on October 19, 2004 at 8:11 pm

    Relax. It’s looking pretty good for Henry’s. Proving, perhaps, that God doesn’t have the problem with homos that some claim He does.

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  26. Gman said on August 19, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    I am so ashamed that I wasted my vote on george war bush. What was I thinking? Why did I let my right wing extremist, neo-conservative, neo-evangelical thinking get in the way of exercising sound personal judgment? Growing up, I was led to believe that the republican party was a grass roots party of the people & for the people. In retrospect, it is clear that the last 3 presidents produced by the republican party were nothing more then the rich man�s rich man hiding under the disguise of the overly misused term, �conservative�. The economic dark ages of reagonomics fleeced the middle and lower classes of this county simply to benefit the rich and wealthy. George warmonger bush has quietly shifted this country back to those economic dark ages. Bush inherited a strong economy and squandered that real quick. And even though 9 -11 did happen, none of bush�s reckless decisions are in any way justified by that day in history. It is clear that he never had any real salient foreign & domestic policies when he became president in 2000. Now we have 4 more years of republican lies and a growing body count overseas. If we ever actually do get out of Iraq, nothing will have changed and nothing will have been gained. The American people have never been given a specific objective in Iraq or a clear definition of exactly what victory in Iraq is from the president. Invading Iraq never had anything to do with, WMD, freeing the Iraqi people or making Americans safer and secure. Statements about WMD, Freeing Iraq or Making America Safer are nothing more then a marketing spin used to hide the ugly truth and make the lies palatable to the American public and justifiable to the red necks who voted for him. Bush likes to make statements such as �It�s worth the price� but he never says just what exactly �it� is. If he really believes that, then he should put his money where his mouth is and send his daughters to go fight in Iraq. The republican party claims to be for smaller less wasteful government but the current administration is responsible for the waste of more money, resources and human lives then any past democrat presidency. I have a hard time sleeping at night knowing that the blood of Americans and innocent civilians is on my hands and the hands of those who voted for george warmonger bush. The real legacy of the bush cabinet is going to be one characterized by lots of wrongful deaths, lots of money and resources wasted, unnecessary tax increases for our children and grandchildren and the unnecessary destruction of various social programs that good decent people count on. Thanks to bush and his power hungry cabinet who all want to control congress, the senate & the supreme court, the USA is now a third world country hiding under the disguise of prosperity. Now that the USA owes all these hundreds of millions of dollars to countries like China, Germany, Russia & Japan, I wonder which language I need to learn for the day when these countries come to collect�

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