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Head of N.J. marriage equality campaign leading new push to repeal Ohio ban

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The last blog post on the website for New Jersey United for Marriage is dated Oct. 21, the day gay and lesbian couples began getting marriage licenses across the state.

It says: “We won!”

But now, the manager of that effort has moved to Ohio, where he’ll run an educational campaign that’s building support for an eventual push to repeal the 2004 state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

Michael Premo

Michael Premo

Michael Premo, a veteran political operative who has run local, state and federal campaigns in Michigan, New York and New Jersey, will be introduced today as the campaign manager for Why Marriage Matters Ohio, an effort launched in September by Equality Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

“I’m champing at the bit to get going,” Premo said yesterday in an interview with Outlook. “I think both sides rightly recognize: As goes Ohio, so goes the nation. When we win in Ohio, that’s going to generate a huge burst of momentum.”

But Premo echoes the feelings of his new bosses, who have disagreed with the timing of a separate effort under way to push marriage equality to the Ohio ballot in 2014. Freedom Ohio says it already has enough signatures for ballot measure that would replace Ohio’s 10-year-old marriage ban with what’s called the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment.

Premo wouldn’t set a date for a Why Marriage Matters-led ballot campaign, but he said it will be dictated by the progress made on winning Ohioans’ support, not by national groups’ state-by-state priorities lists.

“The only criteria we’re going to use is when can we win,” he said. “I think as of right now, if we got every single person who supports marriage equality out to vote, we would fall short. People are movable. It’s just that those conversations have to happen.”

Ohio polls have shown mixed results on marriage equality.

Premo said the strategy for Why Marriage Matters Ohio will be similar to the effort at New Jersey United for Marriage, even though the latter state’s campaign was focused on overriding Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of marriage-equality legislation.

A state court eventually ruled that lesbian and gay couples had the right to marry, and Christie dropped a planned appeal after the New Jersey Supreme Court said it wouldn’t stop marriages while it considered the matter.

Instead of recruiting supporters to contact state legislators, though, the Ohio campaign will concentrate on building support at a more grass-roots level. Why Marriage Matters has been asking gay and lesbian Ohioans to share their stories online and talk to others about how they’re affected by the lack of marriage rights.

The effort will continue to organize supporters across the state, with an emphasis on encouraging people of faith and local leaders to talk about marriage equality with others.

Premo has experience in all phases of political campaigns. He founded a consulting firm that offered services from recruiting volunteers to getting out the vote. He helped topple a sitting New Jersey Senate president in 2003 and win Michigan for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. He was named by as one of New Jersey’s top political operatives in 2005.

He has a wife but says he was motivated to work for marriage equality because he wanted to help his gay friends who are denied rights he is granted as a straight man.

“The best part of the victory in New Jersey was seeing the pictures of my friends who got married that night,” Premo said. “It is mind-boggling to me that loving and committed couples are denied that right simply because of their sexual orientation.”

© Outlook Columbus. An LGBTQ Nation media partner.
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14 more reader comments:

  1. Tell him to skip up to Michigan too.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8:29pm
  2. The traveling salesman of equality & hope.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8:43pm
  3. Love it! :)

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8:56pm
  4. Then he can sashay on over to Indiana and show them a thing or two.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 9:52pm
  5. ^^^ yes, please

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 10:25pm
  6. Exciting isn’t it. I may be just a teen but in the future I want to marry him. Let’s make it happen!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 10:54pm
  7. . I hope it pass ; )

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 11:06pm
  8. Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 1:09am
  9. Both Michigan and Ohio fell on that fateful day in 2004 when– what? — 8? 11? states in total fell to anti-gay campaigns.

    Indiana did not. In fact, they (have) held out for quite a while.

    Whatever in Indiana’s economic, cultural and political systems allowed them to do that gives them an edge on getting go gay marriage before Ann Arbor or Columbus does.

    Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 1:12am
  10. equal marriage…no to homophobia…

    Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 2:26am
  11. We’re gonna get this thing done, I tell you! Love and history is on our side!

    Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 4:02am
  12. Bella Week

    Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 4:54am
  13. Sviđa mi se cool

    Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 6:03am
  14. I hope we never forget the struggles of our past that have allowed us to realize the change we are experiencing today.

    Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 1:13pm