Just three days before a judge issued a ruling saying that the state of Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, three lesbian couples journeyed from the Buckeye State to Chicago as part of what they called a "marriage caravan."
Additional photos at www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .
The women, who were joined April 11 in Chicago by another couple, from Indiana, hoped to send a message to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine not to appeal the marriage ruling, which had been scheduled for April 14.
The caravan was the brainchild of activist donors Rick Neal and Tom Grote of Columbus, Ohio, who brought along their two young daughters for the trip. Neal said the preliminary announcement of the decision was 'energizing' for the state's LGBT community and they wanted to do something to bring more marriages into Ohio. Neal and Grote had a commitment ceremony in 2007 and a Massachusetts wedding last year. Grote is a founding member of Equality Ohio.
Ashley Billey of Cleveland said she and her partner, Shayla Shannon, found out about the Caravan on Equality Ohio's Facebook page. The couple have been together for three years and "had been discussing our options," Billey said. "But now seemed like a good time, while everyone was in preparation for the judge's decisionwe wanted it to have meaning."
Billey said that she and Shannon were excited about the prospect of having the marriage be official. "Without any rights in our own state, it's just a piece of paper."
Cara Blessing and Chelsea Bolyard of Columbus also have been together for 3 years, and said a primary motivation for them came from just having gone through custody issues. "We want legal rights," said Blessing. "We want to protect our own legal rights and the rights of our children."
Jennifer Lape and Leah Kaiser of Columbus, together for six years, had long been considering in which state they should get married. Kaiser said they felt that the caravan provided "a great opportunity" to finally wed.
Photographers Amy Clark and Jackie Shull came along to document the trip.
Heather Tribble and Megan Pitzer, of Lafayette, Ind., and some of their family members, were in line behind the caravan group and struck up a conversation. They ultimately were invited to join a wedding ceremony at City Hall that afternoonthe County Clerk's Office waived the 24-hour waiting period for the eight visitors. Tribble said that they'd been together for six years and one month; they had gotten engaged one month prior, on their six-year anniversary.
After obtaining their licenses, the couples crossed the street to City Hall, where they crowded into the office of Judge Martin Moltz. The four couples were presented with complimentary copies of the "official" version of their marriage certificate by Cook County Director of Vital Records Timothy Dever once their ceremonies were over.
"That's the last time anyone will ever get anything free from Cook County," joked Moltz.
According to County Clerk's Office officials, the four couples were the 907th, 908th, 909th and 910th same-sex couples to be wed in Cook County.
The April 14 decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge Timothy Black, struck down portions of Ohio's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and withholding legal respect for same-sex couples.
Also please see Federal Judge: Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages 2014-04-14 at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Federal-Judge-Ohio-must-recognize-same-sex-marriages-/47028.html .