cleveland hostel raises awareness, signatures for marriage equality

The Cleveland Hostel welcomes travelers from all over the world, so it makes perfect sense for owner Mark Raymond to expand that welcoming attitude to an important issue impacting both the country and the state of Ohio.

On April 18, Raymond's Ohio City-based hostel hosted an event that raised awareness and signatures for the Freedom to Marry Ohio movement dedicated to ending marriage discrimination.

Over 75 attendees gathered to support the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment, which would grant two consenting adults the right to marry regardless of gender. In addition, the amendment would not infringe upon religious freedoms, meaning religious institutions would be free to recognize or not recognize the marriage.

"I don't see why government would get in the way of gay marriage," says Raymond, 32. "That's not what we're about here [in the U.S]."

Among the hostel event's speakers were Freedom to Marry Ohio co-founder Ian James, who married his partner in Canada in 2003. Changing the state constitution’s definition of marriage while protecting religious groups' freedom to recognize that union is a tricky balance, one Raymond hopes at least get a chance to succeed on the November ballot.

Supporters of the amendment have until July 3 to file at least 386,000 valid signatures with the Ohio secretary of state.
Raymond is proud to be part of the grassroots effort, and would consider hosting another awareness-raising event should the opportunity arise.

"This can be something that leads to change in our country," he says.

SOURCE: Mark Raymond
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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