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After a recent poll determined that same-sex marriage support is at an all-time high in Ohio, a town hall meeting will take place

A marriage equality town hall meeting will take place in Athens just a day after a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 50-44.

Michael Premo, of Why Marriage Matters Ohio, and Elyzabeth Holford, of Equality Ohio, will be visiting Athens to discuss plans for the future with supporters and non-supporters alike of same-sex marriage during the second Tuesday talk.

“Elyzabeth and I will lay out our plans for how we’re going to achieve marriage equality, and then we’ll open it up to questions and answers from the audience,” Premo said. “We want to spend most of the time fielding questions and answers because that’s where you get into the real conversations with folks.”

Those plans include opening up offices in major Ohio cities, including Cleveland and Cincinnati, as well as recruiting volunteers, faith leaders and business supporters across the state.

Premo said the idea is to teach people to have “honest and compassionate conversations” and to train people to respond to typical arguments made surrounding the marriage debate.

Why Marriage Matters Ohio is an organization founded in September 2013 by Equality Ohio, Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation; it is designed to build “a robust public education effort that will turn into a ballot initiative in 2016,” Premo said.

Premo has worked as the campaign manager for the New Jersey United for Marriage campaign that worked to override a veto against a marriage equality bill and allowed same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

While Why Marriage Matters has begun traveling around the state on its public education campaign, another group, Freedom to Marry Ohio, or FreedomOhio, has been collecting signatures since 2012 for an amendment of its own, which the Why Marriage Matters Ohio coalition members have voted not to support.

Led by Ian James, the language for the amendment has already been set, and according to a

Columbus Dispatch

article, the amendment has collected 650,000 signatures.

On the FreedomOhio website, the language for the amendment reads: “In the State of Ohio and its political subdivisions, marriage shall be a union of two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousins, and not having a husband or wife living, and no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage.”

Premo said he fears the amendment could potentially institutionalize discrimination into the Ohio Constitution.

“The proposed amendment ... allows the institutions to refuse to recognize a legal marriage and it doesn't say same-sex marriage, it says a marriage, which means that a religious institution could refuse to recognize any marriage they object to,” Premo said.

“FreedomOhio has in the last two years grown to become the state’s largest LGBT equality organization with over 62,000 members because it has taken a stand that Equality Ohio has failed to take in nine years,” James, founder of FreedomOhio, said. “We support the advocacy of building support for marriage equality. We reject the negative attacks on the amendment for all loving couples in Ohio because it provides nothing but salt into the fields where marriage equality must go.”

The executive committee of FreedomOhio will decide when to put the amendment on the ballot, James continued, and the deadline for filing for the 2014 election is not until July 2.

James noted that public support has never been higher for same-sex marriage, citing the Monday Quinnipiac University Poll. Ohio voters support same-sex marriage 50-44 percent.

When the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio passed in 2004, voters were 62 percent for marriage between a man and woman.

Premo noted that even though public opinion has improved over the years, the polling numbers should be higher.

“We need to be at 55 percent before we go to the ballot; we’re not there, and that’s what we can get in 2016 if we have a robust public education effort,” Premo said.

ds834910@ohiou.edu

An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in print under the headline, "Poll reveals support for gay marriage." 

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