Expectations for the two day event were set high, and the fact that the four states were spread from the South to the Midwest only seemed to impart a greater sense of pride. From Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan, in person and via reports by various news sources across the nation, the plight of discrimination and second class citizenship resounded.
Families spoke of last rights and benefits being taken away, being unable to be equal guardians of children and even active military service members having their families valued by the Federal Government but not the state in which they live. With that said, there were still many same-sex families in attendance as well as those of their straight allies who showed up to show support for their friends and family.
Tennessee may have had the smallest delegation at the two day event but we were by no means the least productive. Many individuals, radio shows and news stations had questions regarding sentiment in our state. We were also fortunate to have representation from Tennessee Marriage Equality speak at Fountain Square on the day of the rally and march, who also partook in the first ever mass commitment ceremony of LGBT people in the square. It was made very clear by speaker after speaker that we as LGBT people do not seek to take beliefs away from any individual, but would rather our own be respected and covered by law.
Walking the streets of Cincinnati, we were occasionally stopped and asked what was going on or what the reason was for the crowd, signs and flags. I have to say that the reaction from most was surprise that such measures still need to be taken within the 6th circuit or anywhere in the United States for that matter. We stressed the importance of voting and the impact it has, as well as support from our straight allies.
In the courtroom it was made clear that the states’ defense would focus on the fact that, in their opinion, marriage should only benefit those that are able to procreate or heterosexuals. In the end, a simple question by one of the judges, "How would anything change, allowing same-sex couples to marry?" seemed to be left unanswered by the states.
After speaking with a couple of the attorneys working on behalf of the Tennessee plaintiffs and one of the couples from Knoxville, morale was high with expectations for a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage within our grasp.
The two day event taught this individual that no matter the lines drawn or boundaries between us, as long as we stand together our voices will be heard. Love is a human condition that each individual, regardless of race, beliefs or sexual orientation must be allowed to experience. In the end, we must wait, continue to rally support and be PROUD because a new opportunity in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness is just around the corner.
Brandon Paxton is an Atlanta resident, a recent transplant from Chattanooga, who live-tweeted on behalf of O&AN on August 5 and 6 during the rally and from the courtroom — until they told him to turn off his phone. Follow him on Twitter @braxton2386