I was born and raised in a conservative Christian home. I know Jesus and I have Christ in my heart.

Ahead of Columbus Pride this weekend I wanted to share my feelings on equality.

As a child I was taught that marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman, and at the time I had no reason to believe otherwise. I didn’t know anyone who was gay, and all the adults in my life were paired up with the opposite sex so it made sense. Until it didn’t. As I got older I started to become friends with guys and girls who happened to be gay, or the more likely situation, my friends realized that they were gay. Nothing changed for me by learning these facts- they were my friends and I loved them all the same.

Here’s a fact some of you may not know-- Tim and I got married straight out of high school. I was 18 years old. Why did we seal the deal so early in life? Because I believe in marriage. All marriage. [ I mean… we both do but I don’t want to put words in his mouth].

So fast forward to 2015, the Supreme Court ruling was announced. Same sex marriage is now a right nationwide. I was ecstatic. Friends and family that I love could now legally marry the people they love. They could share health insurance, and if one of them God forbid died, the other could be a beneficiary of their estate.  I watched so many couples celebrate their love for one another and their joy brought tears to my eyes.

But the tragedy that occurred in Orlando reminds us that just because homosexual couples are now afforded the same marriage rights, doesn’t make everything right in the world. Sadly many people still have extreme beliefs, some have hatred in their hearts, and too many just don’t understand. We still need to continue to support and embrace those that we love, and those that need us to be a voice for them. Equality is still very much sought after.

As we head into Pride weekend, intending to take part in the parade and festival, I just wanted to remind you to [first and foremost] be safe, but also to remember the purpose of the event. Sure, it is a joyful, colorful and vibrant expression of love- it also serves to be a powerful protest for positive change.

Reach out to those in your life who need that embrace, that voice and support and just love them.