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!