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Why Marriage Matters Gets New Leadership as Movement Nears a Tipping Point

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Why Marriage Matters Gets New Leadership as Movement Nears a Tipping PointPhoto by GR Sauvage.
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There is optimism across America among LGBT activists as the county inches closer to a final decision on marriage equality by the Supreme Court this summer. Last week, after SCOTUS declined to strike down a lower court ruling against Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent that the Supreme Court’s move “may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution of that question.” Later in the week, President Obama said in an interview with BuzzFeed that he expects the Supreme Court will strike down the state bans on same-sex marriage sooner rather than later.

As the marriage equality movement approaches what looks increasingly like victory, Why Marriage Matters Ohio, based in Columbus, has experienced a change in leadership. Late last month, the group’s campaign manager Michael Premo announced that he would leave the campaign to become chief of staff for the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus.

Replacing him is Chris Geggie, who has been with WMMOH since March, most recently serving as the group’s communications director. Before Ohio, Geggie worked on similar marriage equality campaigns in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Indiana and said he is excited to be leading Why Marriage Matters Ohio as the nation approaches a final Supreme Court decision on the matter.

“These next five-ish months are going to be some of the most important in the history of the marriage movement and so the work that we’re able to do right now is even more important,” said Geggie. “So I am actually really kind of humbled and honored to be able to have the position right now.”

Geggie said it’s a significant step to see justices from opposite ends of the political spectrum – meaning Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said Americans are ready for marriage equality in an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday – both hinting that the Court is prepared to vote against the marriage bans. Geggie said that while this is a positive indication for the movement, SCOTUS decisions are hard to predict.

“The bottom line is we’re hearing good things but we just don’t know what the outcome is going to be, because that’s what the Supreme Court does,” said Geggie.

Of course, the Court’s decision not to delay gay marriages in Alabama did not stop the situation from becoming all Alabama-y. Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has ordered judges throughout the state not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, effectively challenging the authority of the US Supreme Court, and not for the first time. In the event that SCOTUS rules in favor of marriage equality nationwide this summer, Geggie does not expect the same kind of controversy to occur in Ohio.

“The levels of support in Ohio and Alabama are significantly different. Support in Alabama is a lot lower,” said Geggie. More than half of Ohioans already support marriage equality, said Geggie, “and this is before you even get to June, so the work that we’re continuing to do is just to increase those levels of support.”

Geggie described his leadership of the campaign as being primarily focused on helping people to find their voices and encouraging them to share their stories. He also said one thing he adds as the WMMOH campaign manager is the fact that he is personally affected by the inability to marry in Ohio.

If the Supreme Court does strike down the state marriage bans this summer, the movement for LGBT equality in America will still have work to do.

“Marriage equality is a fantastic issue, but it’s not the only one,” said Geggie. “In June, if they rule the way that they should, we will have 50 states with marriage equality but only 29 with employment and housing nondiscrimination laws in place. So it would be a really sad thing to get married on Monday and come into the office and get fired on Tuesday.”

Geggie said he intends to participate in campaigns for anti-bullying legislation, the strengthening of hate crime laws and the establishment of protections for transgender Americans if and when marriage equality becomes the law of the land.

For ongoing discussion on Marriage Equality in Ohio, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

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