COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s Democratic candidate for governor said he favors marriage equality and supports efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
In an interview with Outlook Columbus, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said he believes in “full equality for all Ohioans, and that includes the LGBT community, and that includes issues not just related to marriage, but also employment and housing.”
“If it’s on the ballot I’m going to vote for it. If something comes across my desk when I’m governor, I’m going to sign it,” he said.
FitzGerald, 44, a former FBI agent and former mayor of gay-friendly Lakewood, is Republican Gov. John Kasich’s only Democratic challenger for re-election.
In contrast, Kasich told lesbian and gay Ohioans earlier this year to hire lawyers and draw up private contracts if they want legal recognition for their relationships.
FitzGerald was critical of Kasich’s position on LGBT issues, which goes no further than a comment in March that he has gay friends. Kasich told a TV interviewer then that he supported civil unions for gay and lesbian Ohioans, but his spokesman quickly retracted the comments and said the governor didn’t know what civil unions were.
“Maybe part of his brain told him it was the right thing to do and the other part told him, ‘You have a right wing in your party that you can’t defy,’” FitzGerald said.
Article continues belowThe Democrat has faced critics of his own in the LGBT community, though, who accuse him of being too timid in his support on LGBT civil-rights issues. Some have questioned whether he supports marriage equality at all.
He told Outlook that he will vote for a proposed constitutional amendment if it’s on the Ohio ballot this fall, but he said he’s not weighing in on whether this is the best year to seek a referendum on undoing the state’s 2004 marriage ban.
That’s an issue for people within the LGBT community to decide, FitzGerald said. He said it would be presumptuous for him to weigh in.
Ian James, a founder of Freedom Ohio, the group seeking signatures for the ballot measure, said he hopes FitzGerald will sign his organization’s petitions. Freedom Ohio has yet to decide whether to seek a statewide vote on marriage equality in 2013.