June 1 march light on attendance, high on passionWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Lily Briggs stood in front the 16 other gathered marchers, taking her turn as the fifth of six pre-march speakers, she challenged her audience members to raise their voices in unison and force Toledoans to listen to their message.
“We’re fighting for equality on social justice issues for all people,” she shouted. “We live in America, right? Freedom of the people, for the people. If you’re Republican, or if you’re Catholic, or you’re white, or you’re gay. All people are equal, and let that voice cry here today.”
Briggs, 26, is a woman born in Delphos, Ohio as a male named Cameron James Briggs. Her experiences in the first two decades of her life, which include physical assaults, high school bullying and rape, have taught her that she must never be silent about the prejudice and discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face daily.
Undeterred by the two inches of overnight rain, unseasonable 52-degree weather and scattered drizzling, Briggs joined her fellow activists as they marched through a part of Downtown Toledo to promote awareness of the discrimination LGBT individuals face on a daily basis.
The June 1 march, scheduled to begin at noon at the fountain in front of One Government Center, began 30 minutes late as marchers waited for some of the 300 “going” and 269 “maybe” Facebook users who posted their intentions to attend to arrive.
Amy Holland, who along with Ashley Bowers coordinated the protest march in its last week of preparation, said she came Downtown with no expectations.
“We’re going to go march and hope for the best,” Holland said. “More people would have brought more attention, but with the people here, it’s better than nobody.”
The marchers paraded Downtown streets for 44 minutes, stopping at one intersection to hold a minute of silence for the late Joe Wicks, a Downtown businessman who fought the gay rights battle for Toledoans from the late 1960s until his death in 2010.
Supporters of the gay rights march who attended the pre-march rally included a bishop, priest and religious brother from Holy Rosary Reformed Catholic Church, located at 3167 Doyle St. Also in attendance was Bill Takacs, president and managing partner of the law firm, Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer.
Takacs attended the pre-march rally “because I support any move that will engender equality for all people, and I object to people being treated differently just because they’re different.”
A Downtown businessman himself, Takacs said he does not hold the same position as the group of 23 business owners who objected to City Council renaming a Downtown intersection in honor of Joe Wicks.
“I understand why and how people can have different opinions on any number of different issues,” Takacs said. “I just happen to believe, as a business person, that someone’s good and permanent contributions to the community is a worthwhile endeavor and one that should be further supported.”
Bishop Marcis Heckman, one of the three clergy in attendance from the Jesuit-run Holy Rosary Reformed Catholic Church, said he was at the march because Jesuits are “very social justice seeking people. We’re very much trying to call all of the grassroots [organizations] together in many ways. A lot of the time, they don’t work on the same issues. And it’s time that we try to align as much as we can.”
The bishop was reacting to a statement the march’s original organizer, Lair Scott, released to the media claiming that one of the protest march’s four purposes was to address “the lack of unity in Toledo’s own LGBTQ community, among other national and state LGBTQ issues.”
Heckman said he chose to focus on the individual strengths of Toledo’s LGBT organizations, including Equality Toledo, Spectrum, Rainbow Area Youth and Toledo Pride.
“Each have their specific approaches,” he said. “Everyone’s working on different approaches to get different things done because there’s so much in the community that has to be done. There’s too much to be done, and everybody picks different areas.”
Whitmer student Kristal Anderson, 16, said she marched for equality because “it would be nice, if I chose to marry a guy or a girl, that it would be legal, and that I wouldn’t be discriminated against.
“I feel that you should be able to marry whoever you want, and it shouldn’t matter that you’re the same sex. If you love someone, you should be able to love them.”
Anderson said marriage should be about love, not the gender of the couple. She said it’s not uncommon for people to disagree with her.
“I respect their opinion because that is their opinion,” she said, “but it’s not mine, and they should respect my opinion.”
Ila Aki, one of the marchers, raised the question of how far heterosexual individuals might go if they were being denied the right to marry the partner of their choice on arbitrary grounds.
“What if someone told you that because you wear glasses, or have gray hair, or are fat, that you couldn’t get married?” she asked. “Anything at all. How would you feel? And would you make a spectacle of yourself to raise awareness in other people?
“I don’t feel that I’m making a spectacle of myself [by marching]. I feel I’m here today with these good people letting people know we care about their right as well as our own rights.”
Pre-march rally activities also included a marriage proposal by opening speaker Ashley Bowers, 26, to her girlfriend, Becca Ward, 19. Ward accepted immediately, and the audience cheered and yelled words of encouragement as the two women raised their joined hands in defiance of Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage.