Local group holds prayer service, rally ahead of landmark Ohio cases on marriage equality

Why does the “marriage equality” topic matter to you?

A local group is tackling that question ahead of two landmark Ohio cases on the topic that are heading to U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for a full hearing.

RELATED: Cincinnati will be ground zero in debate over same-sex marriage

On Sunday, the organization Why Marriage Matters Ohio held an interfaith prayer service at Christ Episcopal Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati.

The afternoon event gave supporters of same-sex marriage an opportunity to thank the plaintiffs and their legal teams for their efforts ahead of the Aug. 6 hearing.

Last year a Cincinnati judge ruled in favor of a gay couple by saying a man could be the "surviving spouse" on his husband's death certificate. The ruling meant a gay marriage could be recognized in Ohio.

However, the state appealed the decision.

Some answers in the matter will become a little more clear Wednesday when the federal court in downtown Cincinnati hears arguments in the case, as well as five others from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.

The cases heard Wednesday will influence the nation's debate over gay marriage and could shape how the issue is framed as it inevitably makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Officials with Why Marriage Matters Ohio hope Sunday's service was a precursor to an "important milestone in securing the freedom to marry.” But they're willing to take other measures if the court doesn't rule in their favor.

"This message is that all loving and committed couples have the freedom to marry and that we will get the freedom to marry in Ohio whether though the courts or the ballot box," said Mike Premo, the organization’s campaign manager.

In addition to the prayer service, a formal rally is scheduled to take place Tuesday at Lytle Park on E. Fourth Street.

On the eve of the on the eve of oral arguments, supporters plan to gather from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to voice their support for changes to state law. Among those in attendance Tuesday will be former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and plaintiff couples from several of the cases.

The rally is expected to be one of the largest marriage equality event in the state, organizers believe.

Both events are part of statewide public education campaign by Why Marriage Matters Ohio to build support for marriage equality.

Group leaders say the movement offers Ohioans the resources and opportunities to be involved and show their support for the cause.

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