By Alyssa Pawluk
On Saturday, May 9, students, staff and members of the community are welcome to attend the Support Marriage Equality Rally that will be held on Youngstown State University’s core in front of Kilcawley Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Lisa Ronquillo, the student adviser of YSUnity, explained the event.
“The Marriage Equality Rally is an event in which we discuss the continued prohibition of same-sex marriages in the state of Ohio, one of 13 states, [which] refuses to recognize marriages performed in other states,” Ronquillo said. “As of 2015, 37 states have laws in place that recognize marriage equality, and Ohio is one of the states that does not. The organizations involved and in support of the rally believe that things should be different.”
Ronquillo said that representatives from organizations like Equality Ohio, Why Marriage Matters and Youngstown Pride Festival as well as Stephen Snyder-Hill, a United States soldier who was ridiculed at a Republican presidential debate about same-sex rights, and Jacob Nash, a transgender rights advocate, will be giving speeches during the rally.
“We are also seeking representatives from various YSU departments to speak and show their support. Aside from the speakers, the rally will also include an organizational fair for whomever wishes to participate,” Ronquillo said. “We will be discussing how the Supreme Court of the United States is set to hear multiple marriage cases in April, and that the verdict is expected in June. These hearings could change the fate of marriage equality in the United States, which would benefit all Ohio LGBTQIA+ citizens. We are organizing this rally in light of this potential change, and to garner support for the cause. We will also touch upon ENDA, which is the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.”
Nash specializes in LGBTQ issues at Case Western University. He said that he will discuss his experiences as a transgender man and explain how he was denied a marriage license in 2002 in Trumbull County.
“For the rally, I will be speaking about how important marriage is to everyone regardless of how one identifies or who someone loves,” Nash said. “When individuals want to get married it is because they want to commit to the person they love and show their love through that commitment. Many say it’s because of their religious belief, but for me, as a Christian, my God talks about love and Jesus never spoke against marriage equality.”
Christopher Geggie, campaign manager for Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a public education campaign that supports marriage equality in Ohio, said that his organization would be at the rally to spread the message of marriage equality for all.
“Number one, we wouldn’t be in the strong position that we are currently in if it weren’t for the great work that everybody has been doing by going out and sharing their stories about why marriage equality is important to them and have people in their lives, and … because of that work we’ve been able to show pretty clearly that Ohio, across the state, is ready for the freedom of marriage,” Geggie said.
Geggie said that the group has garnered the support of over 200 faith leaders from several different denominations as well as 300 small businesses in the community.
Geggie also explained that there is often opposition to the idea of same-sex marriage in the religious community because faith leaders decide who can marry.
“For instance, if I wanted to get married to my Protestant wife in a Catholic church, if the priest doesn’t want to perform that marriage because my wife were to be purely just Protestant, … the priest would have that ability to say ‘No, I’m sorry. You’ll either have to convert or get married outside of the church,’” Geggie said.
Geggie commented positively on the upcoming rally.
“I think it’s going to be great. People are cheering and learning about marriage equality,” he said.
Ronquillo said that she hopes that students and community members feel welcomed and accepted during the rally.
“I truly believe that people tend to fear and oppose change, especially when it is something that may seem strange or foreign to them,” Ronquillo said. “I believe in the continuation of spreading awareness, enlightening and educating but in a gentle manner. I wish to express love and equality for all humankind.”