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Ohio Statehouse hosted 23 weddings last year, but is off limits to gay ceremonies

Thursday, January 30, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With weddings, it’s all about the flowers, the seating arrangements, the rings, the music, the menu. With weddings, it’s all about the details.

And before anyone gets to the boutonnieres or the bubbly, it’s all about the perfect location. The beach? A garden? An elegant indoor venue?

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

For gay and lesbian couples hoping to hold wedding ceremonies surrounded by the limestone columns and marble staircases of the Ohio Statehouse, though, it’s a grand location that’s totally off-limits.

The self-proclaimed “People’s House,” a public, taxpayer-owned and -operated building that hosted 23 weddings last year, doesn’t allow same-sex couples to rent its atrium, rotunda, plaza or porches as a venue.

In keeping with the constricting tone of Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment that bans marriage, civil unions or any other type of government recognition for gay and lesbian couples, the building’s overseer has a policy that requires couples to obtain a marriage license in the state before renting out space and services. It’s a license that same-sex couples obviously can’t obtain, and out-of-state licenses from marriage-equality states or any other won’t do.

“We do not have a position on the act [of same-sex marriage], but someone has to have a marriage license to be married at the Statehouse, so we follow that policy,” said Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board spokesman Luke Stedke. “Anything we do has to follow the Ohio Constitution.”

The board is a 50-employee state agency and a 12-member appointed panel that sets policy on public use of the Statehouse and its grounds. The wedding policy also requires an Ohio marriage license just to hold a reception in the building. Couples must submit a copy of their license at least two days before their wedding or reception.

Spokesman Mike Rupert said the policy wasn’t put in place to deny lesbian and gay couples access to Statehouse celebrations. It was adopted in 2006, a year before the building was opened up for weddings and receptions.

“The board decided that the Ohio Statehouse is for citizens of Ohio,” he said.

Allowing ceremonies and receptions only for those who obtain marriage licenses in Ohio, though, means the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board is denying access to two groups of Ohio citizens: gays and lesbians whose out-of-state marriages aren’t recognized here, as well as straight couples whose marriages are valid in Ohio no matter where the license is obtained.

It’s a policy that seems unmatched among neighboring states that open up their capitol buildings to weddings and receptions.

Statehouse representatives in Pennsylvania and West Virginia told Outlook that they don’t ask to see couples’ marriage licenses and that policies don’t exclude gay and lesbian couples. Rules posted online for Indiana and Michigan don’t mention any license requirements, either.

LGBT leaders and allies in Ohio criticized the Statehouse policy.

“The Statehouse is the last place where anyone should be denied their civil rights,” said Ian James, co-founder of Freedom Ohio, which is collecting signatures for a statewide vote on marriage equality. “For generations, the Statehouse has stood as the People’s House, where all must be provided equal access.”

State Rep. Michael Stinziano, a Columbus Democrat whose district includes the Statehouse grounds, said he wasn’t aware of the Statehouse policy and sees no reason why it should exist.

“It’s the People’s House. Anything that discriminates like that is a shame,” he said. “Now that I’m aware of it, it’s something I’m committed to changing.”

Equality Ohio, the statewide LGBT-rights organization, said it was researching the issue but declined to comment for this story.

They take that “People’s House” thing seriously at the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. The Statehouse website uses the term 240 times.

The board’s annual budget to keep the Statehouse running is more than $7.7 million, and weddings help offset some of that cost. Couples pay $3,500 to have a wedding in the building and $8,000 for a ceremony and reception.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Matt Eiselstein said his agency doesn’t require couples to show marriage licenses in order to have wedding ceremonies and receptions at state parks, and the agency doesn’t turn away same-sex couples who want to have weddings or receptions at its properties.

The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks welcomes all couples at popular wedding locations such as the Goodale Park gazebo, Topiary Garden, the Park of Roses at Whetstone Park, and North Bank Park’s glass pavilion.

“A wedding is a wedding. It’s just not a question we ask,” said Terri Leist, assistant director of the department. “As long as someone pays the fee and fills out the [rental] paperwork, they can get married.”


© Outlook Media. Ohio's statewide LGBT news source.
An LGBTQ Nation media partner.
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34 more reader comments:

  1. That’s so sad…. frustrating that to some we are still less than people

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:44pm
  2. And yet another reason I hate Ohio!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:44pm
  3. Ohio isn't just stupid rethuglicans.

    Replied on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 5:00pm
  4. That is sad..

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:46pm
  5. Someday that will change

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:49pm
  6. Time to get this group straitened out and quick. I know some one has this rule to block GLBT from using the building. It is out and it will be over.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:49pm
  7. That’s bizarre. Is it because it’s a gay marriage or a gay ‘anything’? This just goes to show a deficit in this whole Republic strategy — American citizens have greater or lesser opportunity because of their personal status.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:51pm
  8. I really feel like “gay” couples that can’t get married in their states should start SUING their states for crimes against humanity!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:54pm
  9. I wanna get Married in Ohio or in Texas sucks cause I was born in Ohio have family there and I was raised in Texas have family here as well ..

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:58pm
  10. Of course, it’s Ohio! I am a native and still work to change things.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:11pm
  11. Bigotry runs deeply in this state!! Hatred based on religious freedom is such an oxymoron!!!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:12pm
  12. A gay couple needs to try to get their wedding ceremony there so they have standing to sue. Establishment Clause ya’ll, Equal Protection Clause. Trumps stupid state level bullshit.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:14pm
  13. Thanks to the GOP, Kasich, and so not Christian beliefs.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:35pm
  14. WTF are their religious functions doing in a Government Building?

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:55pm
  15. Damnit, Ohio. Let’s get our shit together!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:36pm
  16. Another bunch of ass’es anatomies

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:46pm
  17. of course – they aren’t legal YET in Ohio! Round on the ends and HI in the middle! That will change with the right lawsuit!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 8:15pm
  18. Its a shitty state anyway.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 9:21pm
  19. One day, it will deeply regret this. I think the near future. Haters will be horrified by the social media that has documented every word of their choices. Once inequality is struck down it will leave a lot of places like this scrambling to back pedal about what they’ve done wrong.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 10:30pm
  20. Violation of 5th Amendment and 1st Amendment.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 10:54pm
  21. not for long ?

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 11:07pm
  22. I am ashamed to live in Ohio right now!!! How about having marriage equality in all 50 states and be done with it!!! Rant over

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 11:09pm
  23. Are they banning other weddings too then? Fucking retarded lawmakers.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 11:12pm
  24. So much for all citizens being equal, some are obviously more equal than others !!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 12:23am
  25. Is Gay marriage even legal in that state? Screw Ohio if they are!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 1:43am
  26. Who the hell would want to?? Ohio is a nasty dirty place!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 2:54am
  27. Wake up, Ohio!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 3:24am
  28. Isn’t that shite blatant discrimination?

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 3:42am
  29. Bigotry for the sake of bigotry.

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 4:15am
  30. ALL or NONE! cant have one and not the other!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 5:51am
  31. Ohio is so stupid… I cant even.

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 5:56am
  32. OHIO: KEEP OUT OF OHIO…….they still believe in the Right Wing Christian Republican Party…the GOP…Cantor, Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Ryan…and…and…and…others…

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 2:32pm
  33. When you have the Park of Roses just up High Street, why would ANYONE want to marry in that mausoleum? Ohio has a VERY active LGBT community and the best Pride festival I’ve ever seen. Don’t hate Ohio just because it also has some shithead Republicans.

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 5:00pm
  34. hiss boo

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 5:10pm