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It's Time for the Freedom to Marry and Top O' the Towers Benefit

On Friday, March 6th, we went to the City Club for a program titled "It's Time for the Freedom to Marry" featuring noted legal scholar Mr. Evan Wolfson who is also the President of Freedom to Marry which is perhaps the leading campaign to win marriage equality. Mr. Wolfson is also the author of "Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry." Today's program employed the interview format wherein Mr. Wolfson was questioned by Ms. Dee Perry of Ideastream. During the course of the interview Mr. Wolfson spoke about the history of the movement for marriage equality. The first wave was in the early seventies and stamped out quickly by its opponents because the entire concept was ahead of its time. Then came the 1980's and the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic which brought LGBT people to the forefront like never before and the populace of the United States, if not the world, finally saw them as actual human beings who cared and suffered no differently than straight people did. Then came the 1990's and historic courtroom battles like the Hawaii marriage case that Mr. Wolfson participated in. At last today, 20 countries on 5 continents recognize gay marriage; 37 states of the United States recognize gay marriage which means 72% of United States citizens live in a state that recognizes gay marriage; and 63% of the American public as a whole now supports gay marriage.

City Club CEO Mr. Dan Moulthrop termed April 28th "a day of infamy" because that will be the day when the United States Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could lead to a sweeping decision that would order all 50 states to recognize gay marriage. The final supreme court decision is due at the end of June, 2015. Mr. Wolfson and many other people in the room from such organizations as the ACLU, Equality Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign and Why Marriage Matters have worked hard and looked forward to this for many years now.

Mr. Wolfson said that the reason that it looks like they will finally succeed is that they took the time to thoughtfully address the arguments and the concerns of the opponents of gay marriage and were not afraid to form difficult alliances. He went on to say that all kinds of religious leaders, businesspeople and otherwise very conservative people have filed briefs in support of gay marriage. He believed that future battles regarding discrimination against gay people in the areas of employment and housing should probably take the same thoughtful approach if they are to succeed. Nevertheless, if the Supreme Court rules as we all hope that it will, the impact will be tremendous because, as Mr. Wolfson stated, "marriage is the central legal institution of our society" and a person cannot say they are for equality until they address this matter. Mr. Wolfson went on to say that "freedom to marry would help us advance to be part of the whole" and it changes everything for LGBT people.

The program for this day at the City Club also featured Ms. Elizabeth Holford of Equality Ohio who thanked the attendees for "standing up and standing with us" because "we cannot do this alone so we must work together because we will be stronger together."

What was particularly poignant was when actresses Ms. Molly Andrews-Hinders and Ms. Beth Wood performed a scene from "Standing on Ceremony-the Gay Marriage Plays" that is now at the Cleveland Public Theatre until March 21st. Mr. Raymond Bobgan, Executive Artistic Director of the Cleveland Public Theatre, also talked to us for a moment and said that the Cleveland Public Theatre is "always looking for ways to contribute to the dialogue and the work you all do is so important on this." He went on to say that theatre was invented about the same time as democracy so "they go hand in hand" and that they seek to do plays that "spark dialogue in our community."

After the program we asked Mr. Wolfson what he knew about LGBT couples who immigrate to the United States in order to marry so he and Mr. Moulthrop encouraged us to go to the Cleveland Film Festival and watch a film titled "Limited Partnership" which is a documentary about an LGBT couple who were married in Colorado in 1975 and got into trouble with the INS because one of the them immigrated to the United States from Australia to marry his partner.

Along these lines, during the Q and A, a man asked Mr. Wolfson if he thought things would be in place for marriage in Ohio by July 2nd because that was his birthday and he would really like to be able to marry his partner of 25 years on that day in Ohio. Everybody applauded and Mr. Wolfson seemed to indicate that, if the Supreme Court ruled our way late in June, it would be a close call for things to be implemented in time but he urged the questioner to become connected with groups that can apply the right kind of political pressure for a swift implementation. Mr. Wolfson also told the man, "congratulations. You should be married here at home...we hope that we can meet your deadline. Do all that you can to fulfill your dreams. It is time for freedom to marry in Ohio and the freedom to marry nationwide."

On Friday night we went to La Centre in Westlake for the 18th Annual Top O' the Towers Benefit for the St. Augustine Health Ministries. We always enjoy attending this yearly event because our money goes to a good cause, the food is great, and we always feel welcome there amongst the 500 other attendees.

We got to talk to a moment to Ms. Dana A. Carns, the Development Director for St. Augustine; Ms. Alicia Mazzi, Director of Human Resources; and Mr. Rick Meserini, its President/CEO who were both happy that we were there and said to thank Ms. Wong. While we were standing in the buffet line, we spoke to Ms. Anne Nolan who, after learning that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, called her husband Mr. Ed Nolan over and it turned out that he once worked for Pearl of the Orient and knew George and Rose quite well and said to tell them hello. Mr. Nolan now works as a teacher at St. Ignatius.

The auctioneer for the evening was Mr. Bob Hale and the emcee was Mr. Dan Coughlin both of whom have been performing these duties for St. Augustine for years. We watched a short film about St. Augustine that showed how the money raised tonight would go towards renovating the St. Augustine Health Campus to give it a "modern home life feel". The cost for the entire project is $3.5 million but $2.5 million has already been raised. Mr. Coughlin explained that the average cost to renovate a single room was $5,000 and at the end of the auction he announced that $13,750.00 had been raised which was just short of the cost of three rooms. But more money would certainly be raised from the silent auction so we think that before the event concluded there will be enough for at least three rooms if not four.

Playing intermittently throughout the evening was "The New Barleycorn" composed of the Irish minstrels Mr. John Delaney and Mr. Alec DeGabriel. We spoke to Mr. Delaney for a moment and learned that he had immigrated to the United States from Ireland about 20 years ago so he could work with Mr. DeGabriel who immigrated here about 35 years ago. We sat with their friend, Ms. Patricia Hanna who has known them both for years and once went on a trip to Ireland with them. She told us that both Mr. Delaney and Mr. DeGabriel are now dual citizens of both the United States and Ireland. This was interesting because we have been attending Irish events in Cleveland for years now and often see "The New Barleycorn" there but this was the first time that we ever talked to them or learned anything about them. We think that this is because we always focus on their joyous music which preserves the Irish heritage and makes us want to visit Ireland.

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