At-large City Council member Jennifer Cochran read a one-reading resolution in support of equal-marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Ohio.

"Athens is an open and inclusive community that values diversity and celebrates the many contributions that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community makes to the life of our city… Athens City Council supports full equality and protections for the LGBT community," Cochran read.

While the resolution does not carry any force of law, council members' unanimous vote suggested that it reflects Athens City Council's support for marriage equality. Cochran said during the reading of the resolution that Athens City Council has shown its support for the LGBT community before, when it passed legislation in recent years to expand hate-crime protections to include LGBT people and extended health benefits to partners and dependents of city employees.

Cochran also noted that Athens County was the only one of 88 counties to vote against a 2004 Ohio measure that restricts marriages in Ohio to be between a man and a woman.

Former council President Jim Sands (former council member Chris Knisely is current president) sent a letter to Athens City Council, read by Knisely during the meeting, about his support of the marriage-equality resolution.

"My partner David Ratliff and I were committed partners for 42 years, married in Washington D.C. at the Metropolitan Unitarian Church on Aug. 9, 2013," Sands' letter read. "The ceremony was attended by friends and family members welcoming of our commitment to each other."

Ratliff passed away early last year; Sands said in the letter that Ratliff was his business partner at the Athens Flower Shop, where both worked, and that Ratliff, who served in the U.S. Army, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Chris Geggie, deputy communications director at Why Marriage Matters Ohio, was present during the Athens City Council meeting, and praised council members' decision to approve the measure. The resolution also declared Athens City Council's support of Why Marriage Matters Ohio, which is a statewide public education campaign devoted to increasing support of marriage equality in Ohio.

"This is the second unanimous resolution passed in the entire state of Ohio (supporting marriage equality)," Geggie said. "I really thank you so much for helping us to secure the freedom to marry all loving and committed couples and for your work to make Athens a place where all couples are appreciated and respected."

Geggie said that the resolution comes at a unique time in American history as the Supreme Court has granted a writ of certiorari to hear four cases from the Sixth Circuit (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee) relating to gay-marriage bans in those states. Geggie said he expected to hear results from that Supreme Court case in July.

At-large City Council member Steve Patterson (also a candidate for mayor) said that he is "overwhelmingly in support" of the marriage-equality resolution.

"I also just want to mention as the father of an adult child who if he lived in the state of Ohio also would fall in that category where he wouldn't be able to live life to its fullest and have all of the other rights and privileges given to the rest of us, I'm just overwhelmed by the fact that it (resolution) is moving forward and happy that it is," Patterson said.

Geggie said during the meeting that Athens City council members join more than 100 elected officials in Ohio who have announced their support of marriage equality.

IN OTHER COUNCIL NEWS, retired deputy engineer for the Athens County Engineer's office, Mike Canterbury, was sworn in as an at-large City Council member before the meeting on Monday.

As Chris Knisely was sworn in as president of council last week, Knisely left her role as chair of council's Finance and Personnel Committee; council member Jeff Risner was appointed to that chair position.

Risner and the Finance and Personnel Committee are currently tasked with examining city pay structures relating to raises, in light of Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl's continuing dispute with city Auditor Kathy Hecht over retroactive raises she gave to four of her employees last December.

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