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April 6. 2012

I do

Hundreds of couples marry in Cleveland mass wedding

Cleveland--Thousands of people poured onto Lakeside Avenue in front of City Hall on March 24 for a rally for marriage equality. Later, almost 250 couples were wed in the Galleria in a symbolic mass wedding.

The event was the brainchild of Adam Hoover, a 17-year-old from the Cincinnati exurb of Harrison who had already organized similar events in Cincinnati and Columbus last fall. The big difference between Cleveland and the other two cities, he said, was “only 3,300 more” people attending this most recent rally.

He put attendance at 3,645 people after repeatedly counting the crowd in the Galleria with a hand counter. By contrast, the largest number of people in a Cleveland LGBT Pride parade was 3,022, in 2006.

Ed Mullen, the executive director of Equality Ohio, emceed the rally from the steps of City Hall. The organization spent around $3,000 on the rally, and rented out the Galleria for the wedding ceremony. Above City Hall, a rainbow flag flew.

Mullen credited Mayor Frank Jackson’s chief of government affairs Valarie McCall for her help in closing Lakeside Avenue for the event, which Councilor Joe Cimperman also attended.

The mass wedding was broken into two ceremonies, as the 247 couples that had registered were too many for the space available. They were held in the food court, which was emptied of its tables and festooned with flowers.

When couples registered, they were given tickets, and the tickets’ colors matched placards taped to the stage to denote different faith traditions. Wedding emcee Jamie Scott-Moore asked the media to be respectful of the people being wed, since this was a big day for them, before jumping down to marry his husband, Tim Scott-Moore.

The City Hall rally began at 11 am, then headed to the Galleria at 11:40 am. The first weddings started an hour and a half later.

Couples came from across Ohio, including Ashley Fambro and Jessica Kays, who came from Piqua, near Dayton, to participate in the festivities.

As is so often the case, the story behind the story is every bit as interesting as what is in the forefront.

Hoover came out officially less than a year ago, in May 2011. The next month, he began getting involved in gay equal rights issues, and by the end of the year was organizing the rallies in Cincinnati and Columbus.

“The news outed me to about half my family and my community that didn’t know,” he laughed.

He came out to his mother earlier, but told more of his family last year. She was there with him all along, back to when he started his charity, Gifts of Kindness, when he was 14. Gifts of Kindness helps people with basic needs like food and clothing.

“My mom has been one of my head organizers for this gay rights stuff,” he noted. “I credit my mom with everything I do. She’s always been one of those people who puts others before themselves.”

Hoover has been accepted to Miami University, where he plans to double-major in political science and business.

“I wanted to minor in law but I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that,” he noted. “I do a little bit too much, I guess.”

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