More than 250 gay and lesbian couples
participated in what organizers called the “largest illegal mass
wedding ever held,” the Cleveland
Plain Dealer reported.
Eight ministers and priests officiated
over the hundreds of couples as friends and relatives looked on.
Earlier in the day, gay marriage
supporters gathered at Willard Park, just blocks from the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and marched to Cleveland City Hall to
hear an hour's worth of speeches.
City officials welcomed the peaceful
protest by flying a rainbow pride flag under the American flag.
One couple, together 35 years and
legally married in Massachusetts, was among the hundreds who
exchanged vows inside the Galleria off East 9th Street.
“There are over a thousand benefits
available to married couples by the federal government that are
denied to same sex couples,” Dr. Rick Starn, 66, said.
Ohio voters in 2004 overwhelmingly
approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a
heterosexual union. Supporters
are expected on Monday to resubmit a petition that seeks to repeal
the ban after a first attempt was rejected.
“With recent victories in New York,
Washington and Maryland, the momentum for marriage equality has never
been more powerful,” Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality
Ohio, told NBC affiliate WKYC. “Same-sex coupes in Ohio want their
love and commitment to be recognized by the state so that they will
have the same rights and responsibilities as other couples and