The Ohio Street Protest for Full Equality took over yet another city in Ohio, this time invading Cleveland this past Saturday (March 24). (Check out this post and this post for details on similar protest last year.) But the protest did more than just disrupt traffic. It made history. After the rally on the steps of Cleveland’s City Hall, near Willard Park at the corner of 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue, participants marched down the street to the Galleria to witness a mass wedding featuring over 250 straight and gay couples. A first for the state, and made even the region.
It was also a historic day for me personally as it was my first pro-gay marriage/equality protest! It was definitely a life changing experience. I was the first speaker (introduced by rally MC Ed Mullen, director of Equality Ohio) and spoke about bullying on behalf of the It Gets Better Project and the Make it Better Foundation. I made a host of new friends (thanks Shannon Glatz, Liberty Manos and Tom Morgan!) and bonded with people from all over the state about issues that I’m passionate about.
It will definitely go down as one of the greatest days of my life. I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. In that moment in a crowd of 2,000 I felt like I could truly make a difference. I was a very powerful experience that I’ll never forget.
Several organizations came together to plan this amazing event including Equality Ohio, GetEQUAL, Freedom to Marry. And there were several amazing speakers including Captain Steve Snyder-Hill, who is the plaintiff, along with his partner, in a high profile DOMA case and the soldier who was booed at the Republican debate in September; former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, who is a leader of Freedom to Marry Ohio, which is collecting petitions to have gay marriage added to the 2013 ballot; and a surprise visit from former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy, a long time advocate for gay rights, she’s was just named the new CEO of Freedom to Marry Ohio.
All the speeches were amazing, but I have my favorite was from Pastor Robert and Joyce Strommen (pictured above) who are a part of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats but were mainly there representing the Cleveland branch of PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays). They were an older couple who gave a tear-jerking speech about the importance of acceptance. I kept think about my own grandparents and parents and wishing they were as accepting as the Strommens.
The rally also garnered lots of press coverage. Check out videos from Cleveland’s local ABC, NBC and Fox news affiliates. and since I was there my journalism bug kicked in I took a few pictures and video (video #1, video #2) of my own.
Here are a couple amazing videos of Vision Video Productions. Overall I think they have the best coverage of the event that I’ve seen.