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 stereotypes."
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 marry.
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 economy.
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 could compete.
"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
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.