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Friday, November 26, 2004

Meet Ohio's anti-gay marriage crusader.

Here's an important article in the Times profiling Phil Burress, the Ohio anti-pornography crusader who led the state's rapid and extremely effective campaign to put a gay marriage ban in the state constitution. Note two things: His persistence and his focus on organizational development. Obviously the article advances Burress's view of his own importance, so add a grain of salt, but it nevertheless offers a good "know your enemy" tale.

Mr. Burress became a Paul Revere for the movement against same-sex marriage, not only sounding warnings across the land but also laying the groundwork for a church-based conservative movement that he hopes will transform Ohio politics for years to come.

By January 1996, he had helped organize a meeting of Christian conservatives where a program to combat same-sex marriage was devised. By that fall, they had persuaded Congress and President Bill Clinton to enact legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman. [What we don't learn here, however, is what that program involved, how much money it required, and what sort of organizational structure it needed to put enough pressure on Congress to pass this bill.]

Within four years, more than 30 state legislatures had followed suit. And on Election Day this month, voters in 11 states, including Ohio, overwhelmingly passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

Mr. Burress's organization gathered 575,000 signatures to put the Ohio measure on the ballot in fewer than 90 days, then helped turn out thousands of conservative voters on Election Day. [That's the story I want to know more about.] Their support is widely viewed as having been crucial to President Bush's narrow victory in that swing state. . . .

Just days after their thundering victories in the fall elections, Mr. Burress and other Christian conservative leaders met in Washington to discuss next year's constitutional amendment battles, which will focus on about 10 states, including Arizona, Florida and Kansas. They hope those fights will be the prelude to their real goal: amending the United States Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, which could take years.

Beyond that, Mr. Burress plans to take his grass-roots movement in Ohio to a new level, using a computer database of 1.5 million voters to build a network of Christian conservative officials, candidates and political advocates.

He envisions holding town-hall-style meetings early next year in Ohio's 88 counties to identify issues, recruit organizers and train volunteers. With a cadre of 15 to 20 leaders in each county, he says he believes religious conservatives can be running school boards, town councils and county prosecutors' offices across the state within a few years.

"I'm building an army," Mr. Burress said. "We can't just let people go back to the pews and go to sleep."

Make sure to read the rest. ("After Victory, Crusader Against Same-Sex Marriage Thinks Big," James Dao, New York Times 11.26.04, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 26 November 2004 at 10:29 AM

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