LGBT rights activists will pull together colorful signs, rainbow accessories, and for some, wedding gowns and suits on Saturday March 24 for a massive marriage equality rally.
The rally starts 11a.m. at Free Stamp Park (also known as Willard Park), and weddings will take place in the Galleria a block away.
Organizers expect the rally in Cleveland to be the largest marriage equality rally in Ohio. The first marriage equality rally took place in Cincinnati last November. Kent State nursing major Shannon Glatz was there and began work to organize the Cleveland rally and promote a similar rally in Columbus in December.
“When we heard that this rally was coming to Cleveland, we formed our own committee and gathered local people, sponsors, speakers,” Glatz said. “This is looking to be the biggest [rally] yet.”
The rallies are the brainchild of 17-year-old Harrison, Ohio, native Adam Hoover. Hoover led the first rally in Cincinnati, which had just over 400 attendees. He reached out to a number of organizations for help in promotion, including Equality Ohio and Get Equal Ohio.
Tom Morgan, state lead for GetEQUAL Ohio, said that Hoover reached out to the national organization before the first rally, and they have stayed involved ever since.
“I even got engaged at the Columbus rally,” Morgan said. “Adam Hoover asked if [GetEQUAL Ohio] would be interested in helping out, and of course we were, and we’ve been involved ever since.”
Glatz said that having groups like GetEQUAL Ohio involved has helped in getting attention to the rallies.
“GetEQUAL is very grassroots,” she said. “They’re boots-on-the-ground kind of people, and that really spoke to us. They only have two paid employees, so they’re like us.”
The rally will include marriage ceremonies for over 200 registered couples.
“The marriages were added about halfway through planning,” Morgan said. “We want to give a very graphic, tangible demonstration of what’s not afforded us.”
Glatz said that the marriage ceremonies have increased interest in the rally.
“The mass wedding ceremonies have interested a lot of people,” she said. “We have over 200 couples registered, and if they bring friends, plus those who just turn up to help out – it should be a huge turnout.”
Glatz estimates that at least 1,000 people will be in attendance.
“This is just our beginning into activism,” she said. “I hope a lot of people come out and get educated and get motivated and fight for their equality – this is what sparks me, and I never thought I’d go to a rally.”
Morgan also said he hopes people come to get educated. A petition is currently with Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, which may put a voter-repeal of Ohio’s anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot box. Morgan is hoping to know by Saturday whether or not the petition will be accepted. If it’s not, he plans on circulating a similar one to get more signatures.
“We want to use this opportunity to get the message out there,” he said. “We are a wide spectrum of people, and the face that we want put on our issues is one that’s intelligent and well spoken. We want people who don’t know much about us to be enlightened.”
Glatz and Morgan both agreed that there are plenty of ways to get involved if you can’t make it to the rally Saturday.
“People laugh about Facebook and stuff, but things like it – social media – are such fantastic tools,” Morgan said. “People need to seek out and find the best equality group that fits them.”
Glatz also encouraged getting involved through social media.
“You can join the [Facebook] page, Support Gay Marriage in Ohio,” she said. “Just that will update you on events and rallies, and they have something every three months. Facebook activism is great.”
No matter what you can do, Glatz said to get involved.
“More of us need to stand up,” she said. “We do this because it’s our passion, not our paycheck.”
Morgan agreed that awareness about the situation is key.
“The very last thing we want to do is redefine or destroy marriage,” he said. “We just want in on it, and that’s part of our equality.”