CLEVELAND, Ohio — Gay rights organizers hope to stage what they describe as the “largest illegal mass wedding ever held,” on March 24 in Cleveland.
That’s “illegal” as in same-sex marriage, which is not legally recognized in Ohio.
The Support Gay Marriage event is being supported by a coalition of groups including Equality Ohio and GetEQUAL Ohio.
It starts with a program of speakers at 11 a.m. at the Free Stamp sculpture in Willard Park, East 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue.
Afterward, more than 200 couples registered for the event will be “wed” at no charge by about a dozen clergy members at the Galleria, 1301 East 9th St.
A few traditional touches also will be available including wedding photographers, cupcake towers and a reception.
Event planners said that although the ceremony is not legal, it will provide some of the paperwork needed for obtaining a marriage license should gay marriage ever be recognized in Ohio, as it is in eight other states.
Rallies were held late last year in Columbus and Cincinnati, but Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality Ohio, said this may be the first such event in the Midwest, featuring a mass wedding.
“The more people see what same-sex couples look like and who they are, it enables us to change people’s minds about stereotypes they might have about these couples,” he said.
Mullen noted that this “soft” approach to the issue was a deliberate way of showing how these couples view marriage as “a continuation of loving relationships, and committing yourself to be with someone for the rest of their life.”
He added, “It’s more effective than shouting through a bullhorn, ‘You’re oppressing us.’ If you don’t put people on the defensive from the outset, they might be more willing to listen and learn.”
He believed this rally and similar public events such as the 2014 Gay Games in Northeast Ohio could change attitudes about the gay community and provide “the ability to get the civil rights that we do not have in Ohio.”
Tom Morgan, state lead organizer for GetEQUAL Ohio, said, “Everyone knows they’re not really getting married. This is a tangible representation of the rights we are not afforded, a physical demonstration of the state of inequality in the country and within Ohio.”
Morgan said part of the event also will include collecting signatures on petitions to legally re-define marriage in Ohio.
On Friday, however, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he had rejected the first 1,000 signatures on that petition effort by the group Freedom to Marry Ohio, due to three defects in the petition’s summary language.
Additional information about the Cleveland rally can be obtained on the Support Gay Marriage in Ohio Facebook page, or by calling (513) 367-0223.