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Rally outside Fayette County Courthouse supports same-sex marriage

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Paula Johnston, of Connellsville and a contact for Marriage Equality For Pennsylvania Fayette County Chapter, applauds speaker Troy Michael Smith, formerly of Connellsville, during a Marriage For Equality protest held outside of the Fayette County Courthouse on Thursday, February 14, 2013. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Paula Johnston, of Connellsville and a contact for Marriage Equality For Pennsylvania Fayette County Chapter, addresses a crowd that gathered supporting Marriage For Equality during a protest held outside of the Fayette County Courthouse on Thursday, February 14, 2013. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier

A rally in support of legislation allowing same-sex marriage was held outside the Fayette County courthouse on Thursday.

About two dozen individuals, some carrying signs that read “Pride Against Prejudice” and “With Love and Marriage for All,” turned out to show support for passage of a law in Pennsylvania.

The rally was organized through Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania, according to Paula Johnston, contact for the group's Fayette County chapter.

“We are out here to support marriage equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people,” Johnston said. “And to create awareness and gain greater acceptance.”

Noting that other states, including Maryland and Washington, have granted gay-marriage rights, Johnston said the group's members want a similar law in Pennsylvania.

“We just want the right to be married,” Johnston said. “It's not just about sanctioning marriage. There are rights that married people have that civil unions don't.”

Those rights, Johnston said, include Social Security death benefits, the ability to make health care decisions for a spouse and joint tax return filings.

Troy Michael Smith, 25, of Connellsville, who spoke at the rally, said the group wants small rallies such as the one held Thursday to spark larger ones in bigger communities.

The goal, he said, is to foster support at the local level that will evolve into a statewide push for marriage equality.

“We do have a voice, but the many are silent,” Smith said. “That's the problem. We need people who are silent to reach out to their local leaders.”

A lone protestor, Rebecca Mansberry of Uniontown, stood at the rear of the crowd with a sign that read, “I Do Not Agree.”

“I disagree with their lifestyle,” Mansberry said, lamenting the loss of prayer in public schools and the banishment of Christian-based principals from government. “I figured I needed to stand for what I believe, which is becoming a minority.”

Another woman, Lori Rodeheaver of McClellandtown, passed out Valentine's Day cookies with her 7-year-old daughter, Mia. Rodeheaver, who writes a blog on Christianity and has issued a self-published book on “Organic Christianity,” said she does not support the homosexual lifestyle but wanted those at the rally to know they are “loved.”

“We thought we would share some love with them because we think the church gets a bad reputation for the way they treat people,” Rodeheaver said. “We do not support homosexuals, but we love people.”

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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