Meridian Star

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February 25, 2014

Effort to build gay marriage support heads South

ATLANTA — ATLANTA (AP) — Less than two weeks after a federal judge declared Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, a new effort has been launched in the South seeking to build wider acceptance of gay and lesbian couples in the hope of overturning similar bans across the region.

The $1 million effort will be focused on field organizing and sharing the stories of gay couples through local community and business events as well as social media in 14 Southern states.

The key, supporters say, will be to share stories like those of Linda Ellis and her partner, Lesley Brogan, who appeared at Monday's event. The two have been together since 1988 and are raising their sons John, 15, and Sam, 12, in Decatur, Ga.

"They will tell you we are just like any other old married couple," Ellis said. "They will tell you that, and it's not true. Not yet. And we're ready for it to be."

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was among those kicking off the "Southerners for the Freedom to Marry" campaign Monday, saying he believes gay marriage supporters are on the "right side of history."

"This is about a trajectory. This is about the fact that marriage equality is on an irreversible path toward being legalized across the United States of America," said Reed, who spoke of his initial reluctance to move from civil unions to supporting gay marriage based on religious reasons.

"And some folks have to decide, just like I did, where they want to be on a historical issue," said Reed. "I was wrong, and I changed my opinion."

Georgia and the 13 other states targeted in the campaign all have either a constitutional or statutory provision defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and Republicans still hold considerable sway in those states.

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