August 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Same-sex marriage rallies backers ahead of appeals court hearing in Mich. case

David Donovan, 70, and Barry Schlaile, 60, of Kettering, Ohio rally for the equal right to marry on Tuesday. They'll have been together for 37 years on August 22. (Lauren Abdel-Razzaq / The Detroit News)

Cincinnati— This city near the Ohio-Kentucky border has been inundated with supporters of same-sex marriage on the eve of opening arguments for Michigan and three other Midwest states in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel is scheduled to hear separate arguments Wednesday in each of the same-sex marriage cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

On Tuesday, hundreds of supporters gathered at the city’s historic Lytle Park to stand unified in the fight for equal marriage rights.

Barry Schlaile and David Donovan will have been together for 37 years on Aug. 21. The Kettering, Ohio, couple want to be able to legally marry, both for equal legal rights and for love.

“Our relationship is just as important as anyone else’s,” said Schlaile, 60. “It’s recognizing us as the valid people we are.”

Added Donovan, “We think it’s time we got married in the state we live in.”

Timothy Love, one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky case, and his partner, Larry Ysunza, have been together since 1980. “Marriage for us was a dream we never thought would come true,” Love said. “Never, ever give up on your dreams.”

The rally was put on by Why Marriage Matters Ohio. Attendees wore red.

The Rev. Mary Moore of the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church in Dayton said a group of about 10 came to show support.

“We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of everyone,” she said. “It’s not fair, because I perform services for same-gender couples but they don’t get the same rights as heterosexual couples.”

Michigan’s case is an appeal of a March ruling by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Friedman’s ruling followed a nine-day trial in February. Hazel Park nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse challenged Michigan’s ban because they want to legally marry and adopt each other’s children.

Michigan voters in 2004 adopted the so-called Michigan Marriage Amendment, which declares that marriage is between “one man and one woman.” Friedman said it denies same-sex couples equal protection under the law.

“Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage. Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law,” Friedman wrote in his March 21 ruling.

More than 300 couples received marriage licenses in several Michigan counties before an appeals judge imposed a stay on Friedman’s ruling, shutting the gay marriage window at least temporarily.

DeBoer and Rowse will be in the Cincinnati courtroom hearing the arguments by their attorney, Carole Stanyar. Michigan Solicitor General Aaron Lindstrom will argue the case for the state of Michigan.

It could take months for the appeals court to issue a decision. Opening arguments in the court begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Same-sex marriages are legal in 19 states, including the District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, religious leaders have ramped up their opposition to Friedman’s ruling by filing an amicus brief in the case. The coalition of black pastors and Christian leaders say they support “traditional marriage.”

Phil Burress, head of the Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati-based group that led the successful 2004 campaign to amend the Ohio constitution to restrict marriage to one man and one woman, will hold prayer sessions outside the Potter Stewart Courthouse on Wednesday.

He says legalizing gay marriage would lead to a slippery slope.

“If the approach is equality, then there is no way to deny polygamy and multiple marriages,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to stop it.”

Supporters of same-sex marriage also plan a rally on Wednesday while the court is in session.

FreedomOhio will host a rally at Fountain Square, on Wednesday starting at 12:30 p.m.

Becky Rounds of Miamisburg, Ohio, waves an equality flag during a rally ... (Lauren Abdel-Razzaq/ / The Detroit News)
A group from Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church from ... (Lauren Abdel-Razzaq / The Detroit News)