A federal appeals court in Cincinnati this week heard arguments on
the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan,
Tennessee and Kentucky. Gay marriage supporters have seen a series
of legal victories around the country since the Supreme Court ruled
the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional last year.
Cleveland was selected in 2009 over Boston, Washington and other
large U.S. cities to host the games, held every four years since
they debuted in 1982 in San Francisco.
Games co-chairman Steve Sokany said he believes the selection of the
Midwestern city was about changing hearts and minds and it has
received unprecedented corporate sponsorship.
"The tide is turning and I think these games can have a tremendous
impact," Sokany said in an interview. "We are trying to change
Public opinion in Ohio on gay rights has shifted over the past
decade, reflecting similar changes in other parts of the country.
Ohio voters adopted the gay marriage ban in 2004, but recent polls
show a majority of Ohio voters support allowing same-sex couples to
Cleveland-based sponsors of the games include the United Church of
Christ, Sherwin-Williams paint company, the Cleveland Clinic and
hundreds of small businesses.
Organizers expect about 25,000 athletes, spectators and volunteers
to gather for the games in Cleveland and nearby Akron over the next
eight days, injecting an estimated $50 million into the local
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The competitions include a triathlon and a marathon, as well as
softball, volleyball, darts, bowling and cheering. Figure skating is
a crowd favorite, according to organizers.
The Games feature a wide variety of athletes - young and old, male
and female and both gay and straight.
Denise Sebastian, 64, of Sydney, Australia, who will bowl in the
upcoming games, was once asked by another woman if straight athletes
"I told her we haven't perfected the gay test so I think you can get
by," Sebastian said.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Beech)
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