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An excited couple enters into the area at the Galleria where they will be married in a mass gay wedding Saturday in Cleveland.
Gay and lesbian couples celebrate at mass 'wedding' at Cleveland's Galleria

in UNITED STATES, 26/03/2012

Couples in traditional wedding attire – including some women in tuxedos – gathered in the Galleria Saturday. More than 200 gay and lesbian couples from across the state participated in what they called the "largest illegal mass wedding ever held."

While some were dressed in more casual attire they all had the same intention: to send a message to the state of Ohio to recognize same-sex marriage.

Sierra Chapman, 25 and Sandy Thomas, 48, both of Cleveland, recreated a private service held three years ago.

"We wanted to do this in a joint ceremony with people who are like us," said Chapman. "My parents are okay with it, but they didn't want to come to watch."

Hundreds of friends and relatives of the brides and grooms joined the celebration as eight priests and ministers recited marriage vows to couples of all ages.

The afternoon ceremony followed more than an hour of speeches by activists on the steps of Cleveland City Hall, where a gay pride flag flew under the American flag.

One speaker, Judy Benson of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, said the move for marital rights is not just cosmetic or symbolic.

"Old gay couples have problems because the state will not sanction their marriage like inheritances or social security benefits," she said. "These are things that are freely given to male-female couples."
Mark Szabo, 31, of Rocky River, later said such rights are denied same sex couples who have been together for decades, yet would be offered to someone like "Britney Spears who was married for 55 minutes."

Dr. Rick Starn, 66, and Ron Grey, 56, of Lakewood, said they have been together for 35 years and were married officially in Massachusetts and married informally twice in Washington, D.C.

They exchanged vows again in Cleveland to prove a point.
"There are over a thousand benefits available to married couples by the federal government that are denied to same sex couples," Starn said.

Promoters pointed out that even though Saturday's ceremony is not legal, it could provide some of the paperwork needed for obtaining a marriage license, if gay marriage is ever recognized in Ohio. it will provide some of the paperwork needed for obtaining a marriage license should gay marriage ever be recognized in Ohio.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia. New Jersey lawmakers recently passed a gay marriage bill, but the governor vetoed it.

Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality Ohio, said Saturday's mass marriage may be the biggest ever held.

In a news release, he said the rally and similar public events, such as the 2014 Gay Games in Northeast Ohio, could change attitudes about the gay community.

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