CINCINNATI – Hours before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals was to hear testimony from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee hundreds gathered outside the Potter Stewart Federal Courthouse in the heart of downtown.
The weather was hot for 10 a.m. News crews were already set up on the corner of the street near a city bus station. A rally was planned for noon and the hearings were to begin at 1 p.m., though many entered the courthouse at 11 a.m. to guarantee a spot in the main room. All seats in the actual courtroom were spoken for by noon but attendees could be seated in an overflow room if they wanted to listen to the audio from inside the historic 6th Circuit Court.
The sidewalk was packed nearly cheek-to-cheek, with people dressed in tie-dye, matching t-shirts as well as brightly colored tutus and rainbow “Don’t tread on me” flags, all gathering together before shifting over to the rally site in Fountain Plaza.
BTL weaved through the groups of media crews from Fox News, ABC, NBC and the Detroit Free Press with their big video cameras and quick-snapping photo shoots, as well as groups of various ages, dressed in wedding attire or tanks to endure the southern Ohio summer heat.
“I am here because last month a trans woman of color was murdered, her name was Tiffany Edwards and she lived here in Cincinnati. And this morning I took flowers to her grave and the place where she was murdered. And this is not an isolated incident,” Mrs. Biko of Columbus, Ohio said.
“I am standing in solidarity with my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters but I would love if we could channel some of our resources and attention and energy to some of our community’s most vulnerable.” She was dressed in red with curls in her hair and stood next to Kathy Laufman, the founding member of GLSEN of Greater Cincinnati.
The two have been friends since December of last year and they cannot remember where they met anymore, they’ve connected so many times.
“I am excited about the changes that are coming about faster and faster,” Laufman said. “Our youth have a saying “I want it to change now.” So I know they are getting impatient. And they are very, very excited, as am I, with the political shift across the country.”
Laufman is an ally and has supported the right to marry for many years even throughout her social work career. Laufman’s husband, who works as a lawyer, knows one of the judges and Laufman is hopeful that the ruling will go in favor of the LGBT community.
“I want this world to be a place for our kids to grow into, where they have safety and freedoms. It’s long overdue for our youth,” Laufman said.
Standing with signs in rainbow lettering that read “Love is Love” and “Equal Love” were Karen Geiger-Behm and Amy Simpson-Bennethum who are both Chaplains at a local Children’s Hospital. Amy was there with her husband; Karen’s partner of two years was not able to attend.
“I want to see people celebrating freedom-love exploding all over the place because everyone deserves the equal rights to get married and I would just love for people to be dancing in the streets. That’s what I would love,” Geiger-Behm said.
Her and her partner are planning on having kids soon and she says the 6th Circuit Court decision will truly affect her child’s future. Her current employer recognizes her marriage as does the Federal Government but she would like to see Ohio do so as well.
“Right now my wife cannot be on the birth certificate. We will have to go through all of the adoption processes,” Geiger-Behm said.
Her situation is similar to that of the Michigan Plaintiffs Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer who are fighting to have both same-sex parents listed as parents on the children’s birth certificate. The opposite experience was true for Simpson-Bennethum who when her and her husband decided to marry had no issue.
“I would love to see people that are in heterosexual marriages come out and be supporters of those who don’t have the same opportunities as I have. I hope we get a lot of people, that really support, to be with my colleagues and brothers and sisters who are the same as me. We are all people and we should be free to love who we love,” Simpson-Bennethum said.
Soon after the group moved to the fountain square and heard from ministers and faith leaders, local politicians and candidates who favor equal opportunities for all as well as spouses of our veteran and enlisted military members.
The main theme of the day, besides equality, was a push to share the stories of those in the crowd from both allies and LGBT community members. Getting the word out, really showcasing and showing who we are and what we are all about is going to speak volumes, rally presenter Joshua Snyder-Hill said at both the beginning and end of the rally.
Just before the group marched around the courthouse there was a commitment ceremony where lovers held hands and professed their love.
And then the march began around the courthouse lead by a large group of flag carriers. Numbers were so large that the march stretched more than a city block long. Some walked quietly and some tried to engage the onlookers. But as a whole the group shouted:
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
Frank Colasonti Jr. and his partner were the first of roughly 300 couples married during the brief window in March before the stay on Judge Freidman’s decision was called for the Michigan same-sex marriage case. He showed up late afternoon on Aug. 5 and didn’t leave the street side until dinnertime after the trial. He slept with good friend Kathleen Perrin of Equality Case Files. Perrin ran into Colasonti the night of Aug. 5th and wouldn’t leave her friend to spend the night on Cincinnati pavement alone.
“I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to go into the courtroom, and visually see the arguments,” Colasonti said.
His wait paid off, excited but with tired eyes, Colasonti was the first person to get a ticket the next morning.
Also in attendance at the Aug. 6th Rally was Harmony Creek Dayton Group, Lakeview United Church of Christ, Cincinnati PFLAG, Cincinnati GLSEN, Dayton GLSEN, Christ Cathedral Cincinnati, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, AFSEN Council, Northern Hills Synagogue, Muslims for Progressive Values, AMPA, Mount Alvern Presbyterian, Metropolitan Church, Cincinnati GLBT Center, Jubilee Cincinnati, Church of Our Savior, Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton, Gay Wedding Connections, Miami Value Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Cleveland Pride, Greater Dayton LGBT Center, Have a Gay Day, Tennessee Marriage Equality, David Pepper, Dennis Earhouse, Joe Otis, Chris Cealback and Christie Bryan.
The country now waits to hear what federal judges will decide. And many predict it could take weeks for a ruling to come out of the court. The three judges, Jeffrey S. Sutton, Martha Craig Daughtrey and Deborah L. Cook could take up to a few months to come out with a verdict, so until then the country waits.
Wednesday only saw one individual out in protest of same-sex love. All day he drove around the block in his Repent Mobile. But it was clear where the support was. Wednesday the LGBT community was strongly supported, in thick Ohio sun.