CINCINNATI – An estimated 700 LGBT and allied individuals came out in support of a Marriage Equality Rally on Aug. 5, one day before the 6th Circuit Court hearing that heard testimony from each same-sex marriage case from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.
The sky was cloudy with patches of sun and the air was humid at the boarder of Ohio and Kentucky, having only a freeway divide. Blue signs that read “Why Marriage Matters Ohio” and “Love is Love” covered many lampposts. The area around the stage was packed with families in all red and groups of youth holding signs or sporting rainbow clothing.
“Discrimination is not only wrong, it’s bad for business,” openly gay member of Cincinnati City Council Member Chris Seelbach said in his opening speech after everyone in the park sang the National Anthem. “Gay and lesbian couples are like everyone else. We share the same American values like taking care of our families and our neighbors. We face the same stressors and worries in this challenging economy like making ends meet and finding our jobs. We share the same hopes and dreams like finding that special someone to build a life with, maybe even starting a family with or care for one another in old age, or in times of sickness,” Seelbach said.
Next to speak was David Meredith of the Clifton United Methodist Church who has been with his partner Jim for over 27 years. Meredith spoke about his love of two men, Jesus and Jim and how in spite of what other faith traditions may otherwise say about the Bible, he believes Jesus came to love.
“And like so many same gender-loving couples in Ohio, we have made promises. We have made legal plans and financial commitments; we have made parenting choices and we have made medical decisions; and we’ve made death arrangements, without the ritual blessing of religious vows and without the civil acknowledgement of equal standing. Yet we keep promises to one another, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death us do part,” Meredith said.
The sense of oneness floated throughout the evening. Most of the individuals that got up and spoke to share their stories on family and of commitment are a part of the LGBT community. State Representative Nickie Antonio is known for being the first openly gay elected official in Ohio. She and her partner Jean have been together for more than 20 years and have two beautiful daughters.
“Ohioans relate to elected officials who feelings have evolved on the issue over time,” Antonio began. “And we know that some have. They have moved from opposition and uncertainty to full support. As public servants we believe in the value of freedom and equality under the law. We believe that every family should be treated with dignity and respect. We stand for marriage equality because it strengthens our communities and improves the lives of all families that call Ohio home. I know that we are committed to an Ohio where everyone is free to marry the person they love. Where all loving and committed couples can start a family, care for each other and spend their lives together. It’s time to work together so we may be proud of an Ohio that will not tolerate discrimination of any person, where everyone is treated equally; where equality for all is a cornerstone of our Democratic society.”
“Love makes a family,” Antonio said strongly. And then again with a smile “Love is love.”
Plaintiffs from Kentucky who spoke included Kim Franklin and her partner Tammy, Tim Love and Larry Love and Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliott. Most of these couples didn’t set out to be on the forefront of marriage equality. They were seeking to obtain equal benefits for their love as heterosexual couples have had the pleasure of utilizing since the legality of marriage was finalized.
“Our story really is a love story two decades in the making,” Franklin said. “We are a very old fashioned couple. We’re both from small towns; raised on a farm, still to this day live the values that our values installed in us. The hard work treating others with respect the way that we want to be treated, morals, values, yes ma’am, no ma’am, commitment to our families, commitments to each other and commitments to people in general.”
Many of the couples quoted commitment and devotion as the leading elements of their relationships. They believe in sticking together and creating spaces that harbor love and growth as well as support and joy.
“We wanted to live our lives together to be committed each other and to be married,” Franklin said, her voice slightly faltering looking over to her wife. “Our commitment is just as strong as it was on July 15, 2013 when we were standing on that beach in Connecticut. And I kept thinking to myself, ‘ just stay vertical, don’t faint.”
Dressed in all white, Executive Director of Equality Ohio Elyzabeth Holford got on stage and immediately raised the energy in the park. Those that were sitting got up to stand. And those that were engaged in on and off conversations looked forward to the stage, poised.
“When we go to change the nondiscrimination laws to include all of the LGBT community and all of us inclusively, for housing for work and also for public accommodations, what are we gonna do?” Holford asked with her hands raised.
“WE WILL WIN,” the crowd responded.
“When we go to change the anti-bullying law in Ohio to be inclusive of LGBT students so that we no longer have 80 percent of bullying due to someone thinking that someone else is gay, what will we do?”
“WE WILL WIN”
“When we go to change the process so that you can change your gender marker if and when you transition, what will we do?”
“WE WILL WIN”
“And when we go to strike down the states reprehensible, unacceptable and inappropriate DOMA law what will we do?”
“WE WILL WIN”
“And when we fight for marriage equality, not just tomorrow but whatever happens on marriage equality in Ohio, what will we do?”
“WE WILL WIN”
Emily Dievendorf represented Michigan since Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer could not attend the Aug. 5 rally. Pastor Leslie Jones from the Truth and Destiny Church spoke in addition to Rob Richardson from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.
But it was former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland that shook the stage and brought the crowd to an even stronger boil at the end of the evening.
“This is a great day in the great state of Ohio,” he started. ” You are the foot soldiers in a war for Equality. Now, I thank you for every insult you’ve ever endured, every time you’ve ever been threatened by a bully…”
Elected officials that were in attendance that evening include Chris Seelbach of the Cincinnati City Council, Ed Fitzgerald the Cuyahoga County Executive, Dan Regina from the Mayor John Cranley’s office, Kevin Osborne, Gov. Ted Stricland, Yvette Simpson from the Cincinnati City Council, Denise Steethouse of District 31, Kevin Flynn of the Cincinnati City Council, David Mann and his wife and P.G. Sittenfeld of the Cincinnati City Council.