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February 13, 2009

Rally lifts voices for equal rights and LGBT families

Columbus--A rescheduled rally pressing for equal rights for LGBT people in Ohio brought a crowd of 200 to the parking lot of Stonewall Columbus on January 31.

“The rally was to heighten statewide awareness of the lack of legal protections for LGBTQ individuals and our families,” said lead organizer Cameron Tolle in an e-mail.

Points included Ohio marriage prohibitions and the state Equal Housing and Employment Act, which would bar LGBT discrimination.

“In light of EHEA potentially going through the state legislature this year, it is more important than ever that our state hears LGBTQ and allied voices as we demand equal protection under the law,” said Tolle, who is also the founder of Impact Cincinnati.

The rally, primarily organized by Join the Impact with assistance from Equality Ohio, was originally set for January 10, but severe snowstorms and hazardous road conditions pushed it back to the end of the month.

It was also supposed to be outside the Statehouse, but a state budget cut left the area still covered in snow and ice. Stonewall Columbus’ parking lot stood in, about a mile and a half north on High Street from the original location.

Justin Evans, a Join the Impact organizer in Cleveland, brought a few people with him and joined up with other Clevelanders at the rally.

“There was a teacher from Columbus who spoke at the rally who was fired from her job,” he said, noting the need to start speaking to voters across the state.

“We are at a day and an age now when grassroots movements have a chance of survival,” Evans noted.

It was the second major Ohio event from Join the Impact. The group was created by Willow Witte and Amy Balliett, two Cleveland State University alumni, in reaction to California’s passage of the Proposition 8 marriage ban amendment in November.

In December, rallies were held across the country to protest the California measure, and the January 10 date was used nationally as well.

The next event is set for Saturday, February 14, when Join the Impact is working with Marriage Equality USA for another round of coast-to-coast events, although neither organization’s websites have anything listed for Ohio yet.

Evans apologized, noting, “I’ve been working a lot with the domestic partnership registry, so I haven’t had a lot of planning time with this.”

However, he said the rally will go on, and it will be held at the Free Stamp at Lakeside Avenue and East Ninth Street in Cleveland, at 1 pm.

“The reason we do these rallies is to try to keep everyone involved in the movement, to let people know that we’re here and we want change, and we’re not going to stop our peaceful protests until we see change happen,” said Evans. “And we’re trying to do that in a proactive way.”

Evans wants to bring white knots to Ohio as well--white ribbons with a knot in the middle worn in support of marriage equality. At the Grammy Awards on February 8, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics, were both spotted wearing white knots.

“I think the white knot is a great way of unifying everybody,” he said. “In a lot of different marriage ceremonies, there is a knot ceremony.”

The Valentine’s Day rally will not simply take the “marriage now” tack, however.

“I think one thing I want to bring up is the domestic registry and how we’re fighting for just a piece of paper,” he said. “I want this vigil to show that we have to fight for even that small bit.”

Cleveland City Council passed a domestic partner registry in December, but a group of ministers has begun an initiative to repeal it.

More information about upcoming events is available at and


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