CINCINNATI — Hundreds of gay-marriage supporters rallied Wednesday in downtown Cincinnati near the federal courthouse where judges were hearing arguments about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in four states.
Advocates held up banners and signs urging freedom to marry or other messages in favor of legal challenges to bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The Fountain Square crowd included couples who married in states where same-sex marriages are legal and other longtime couples who said they are waiting for it to become legal in their home states.
"Why shouldn't we able to stay where we live?" asked Jon Bradford, 26, of nearby Covington, Ky. "We shouldn't have to feel like second-class citizens."
Bradford wore a wedding gown and his partner, Matt Morris, a top hat and formal shirt.
"One day it's going to happen," Bradford said. "You can't stop love."
About a dozen people prayed the rosary outside the courthouse. Opponents had said they planned to pray that the judges uphold "traditional marriage."
"I'm just praying for God's will to be done," said Jeff Parker, 53, from the Cincinnati suburb of Madeira.
He said he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman but is concerned about the court challenges.
"They've gotten it wrong before," Parker said. "I don't have a lot of faith in the courts."
One man drove a truck slowly past the rally of gay marriage advocates with such slogans on its side as "Repent Sinners" and other general messages not specifically about the same-sex marriage bans.
Businessman James Hancock, 43, came to the rally from Columbus. He said he and his partner "are waiting for Ohio" to legalize same-sex marriage after voters approved a ban in 2004. He said they hope the recent series of federal court rulings in favor of gay marriage will continue in Cincinnati.
Frank Colasonti Jr., 61, of Birmingham, Mich., was among a handful of people at the courthouse before it opened to get a ticket for one of two overflow courtrooms nearly six hours before the scheduled afternoon start of arguments before a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Colasonti said he and his partner of 26 years married this year in Oakland County, Michigan, before a court order halted marriages pending the state's appeal.
"It's very important to show that we are like other people," said Colasonti. "We wanted to show that our love is no different than what heterosexual couples share."
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr urged Roman Catholics in the 19-county Cincinnati archdiocese to pray that the appeals court would uphold Ohio's ban in support of "traditional marriage" of "one man and one woman for life."
Associated Press reporters David R. Martin and Dan Sewell contributed to this report.