Moving Towards Equality For All

Cincinnati resident Sara Keebler was working at her job as a library services assistant when a regular patron scrolled to an article on Facebook and casually announced, “Hey, gay marriage is legal in all 50 states now.”

To the patron’s surprise, tears immediately came to Sara’s eyes, as she dialed her partner, Liz Hooper, to tell her the news.

Liz received the call while she was at work as a manager at T-mobile. A friend had already sent her a link to a Washington Post article about the law. Liz’s parents were excited, Sara was excited; even strangers were congratulating Liz simply because she was gay.

The ring Liz had picked out for Sara was ready, and although she had planned to propose next month in celebration of three years together, she decided June 26, 2015 was “as good of a day as any.”

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Sara Keebler, left, with Liz Hooper, right

It happened after their dinner at Django Western Taco. Liz had hidden the ring in the spare tire well of their 1994 pink Ford escort hatchback. She told Sara she needed to get into the trunk to retrieve something, and there, she pulled out the ring and asked Sara to marry her.

“It was really sweet, it was emotional,” Sara said.

The two have always wanted to get married in Liz’s parents’ backyard, where Liz’s parents got married 29 years ago.

Because the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution requires same-sex couples be allowed to marry in all 50 states, now they can.

“We would have done it whether it was legal or not,” said Liz with a laugh.

“But the fact that it was legalized does feel good,” added Sara. “I don’t know what it is exactly; I think just to have that recognition of marriage.”

Liz and Sara attended the Cincinnati Pride Parade Saturday, the day after their engagement, with Miller Lite and a warm spirit.

Cincinnati has celebrated Pride Week for 42 years, but in light of the Supreme Court decision, Saturday’s pride event was particularly festive.

“I never figured it would happen,” said Cincinnati resident Roger Eikenberry, who identifies as gay, as he watched the parade begin. “This is wonderful.”

Thousands of people, many dawning rainbow attire and waving pride flags, gathered to watch the parade on 7th St, Vine Street and past Fountain Square.

The parade began with the grand marshal of the event, a transgender woman and celebrity Erika Ervin. Ervin is well-known for her role as Amazon Eve in the television series American Horror Story.

The face of the Supreme Court decision, Jim Obergefell, also attended as a front-runner of the parade. The Cincinnati real estate agent is the named plaintiff in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the case that ruled the nationwide ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Jim Obergefell in Cinci Pride.

Jim Obergefell in Cinci Pride.

Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay city councilman, was among attendance at the event, which was particularly important to him because of efforts he has made for inclusivity in Cincinnati.

In 1993, voters approved Article XII, which stated “No special class status may be granted based upon sexual orientation, conduct or relationships.”

Although supporters of the article said it was put in place to prevent LGBT individuals from receiving “special rights” as opposed to “equal rights,” many found the consequences to be damaging. People identifying as LGBT feared losing their job or being denied basic rights by the city.

Because of Article XII, conventions that were already booked with the city pulled out, tens of millions of dollars were lost, and many people moved away. This added to a 50-year population loss.

“We lived under perhaps the most anti-gay local law our city, and our country, has ever seen,” Seelbach said publicly in November.

Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, said in November the city was a better place when Article XII was in place, citing that “homosexuals” had equal rights, not special rights, under it.

The article was repealed in 2004.

Last year, City Council passed regulations that require those who contract with Cincinnati to adapt a nondiscrimination policy. The hate crime laws were expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity along with race and gender, and in September, Cincinnati included transgender-inclusive procedures to the city’s health insurance policy.

Nearly ten years after Article XII’s repeal, Cincinnati received the highest possible score for inclusion by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.

Although inclusivity has recently expanded locally and nationally, advocates say there is still work to be done.

A parade participant waves a flag at Cinci Pride.

A parade participant waves a flag at Cinci Pride.

In 28 states including Ohio, it is still legal for an employer to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, and to refuse to rent an apartment to someone simply because they are gay or transgender. That means same-sex couples who married on Sunday could lose their jobs because of it on Monday.

“Honestly, me getting married isn’t as important to me as having equal rights like everyone else,” Sara said. “That’s more important than anything to me.”

Liz said she hopes this Supreme Court decision paves the way for recognition of many types of relationships.

“I think the way we live is built for a partnered existence,” Liz said. “You should be able to pick whatever partner you want to live with and get those benefits. think that’s why it’s s important that this passed; it allows for nontraditional relationships to be recognized in the eyes of the law.”

Featured Image: Lauren Oliver, left, and Chloe Lambert, right.

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