Arizona Youth Not Afraid to Sweat for Equality: Local Campaign to Cover 96 Miles to Raise Awareness on Proposition 102

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: July 30, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Meg Sneed, Arizona Right to Marry
Phone: 623-262-6696
Email: meg@righttomarry.org
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(Phoenix, AZ) While most locals are surviving the Dog Days of summer by moving from one air-conditioned space to the next, Meg Sneed — a 25-year-old graduate of Phoenix’s North High School — plans to spend August 8-16 outdoors, traversing the Valley by foot. Sneed and five other young adults will walk 96 miles to raise awareness about Proposition 102, a constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot that attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Meg is a member of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, a national social justice organization, and the local organizer of their Right to Marry Campaign.

"As a young adult, I would like to be able to marry the person I choose one day, but I need the same rights and protections as previous generations of Arizonans in order to do that," says Sneed, who identifies as a lesbian.

The idea for Right to Marry came to Sneed after participating in a three-day walk for breast cancer research. As a cancer survivor herself, Sneed found distance walking both grueling and empowering.

"Walking 96 miles may seem like a crazy feat. But the purpose is to be bold, the length is meant to be challenging," says Sneed. "It has been challenging for gay and lesbian Arizonans to go 96 years without equal rights. Walking symbolizes a journey and a destination, because it’s time to end these divisive and pointless ballot measures."

This November, Arizona voters will once again vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. State law currently prohibits same sex marriage, but Arizona was the first state to defeat a discriminatory marriage amendment in 2006.

Sneed and her peers will walk 96 miles to symbolize the years that Arizona has been a state without equal protection for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens. The group will make periodic stops to lead discussions at churches, city halls, and senior centers around the Valley. And to drink plenty of water.

The Right to Marry is supported by several local LGBT and allied organizations who are committed to defeating Prop 102 in the fall. Inspired and informed by the multicultural traditions of freedom marches, prayer-walking and pilgrimage, the Equality Walkers will follow this route:

Day 1: Sunday, August 10th – Surprise City Hall to Peoria City Hall
Day 2: Monday, August 11th – Peoria City Hall to Avondale City Hall
Day 3: Tuesday, August 12th – Avondale City Hall to Glendale City Hall
Day 4: Wednesday, August 13th – Glendale City Hall to Phoenix City Hall to Scottsdale City Hall
Day 5: Thursday, August 14th – Scottsdale City Hall to Mesa City Hall to Tempe City Hall
Day 6: Friday, August 15th – Tempe City Hall to State Capital
Day 7: Saturday, August 16th – campaign rally & picnic, Central Phoenix location TBD

Soulforce, the national organization sponsoring this walk, envisions freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.
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Detroit News, "Lesbian Tries to Blaze Trail Against Arizona Ballot Issue"

Lesbian tries to blaze trail against Arizona ballot issue

Monday, July 14, 2008
By Deb Price

A famous Chinese proverb teaches that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

For Meg Sneed, a 25-year-old Arizona lesbian, journeys to change a thousand hearts begin with a single thought: There’s power in sharing personal stories.

In 2006, she and other young activists in Soulforce, a gay-rights group devoted to the peaceful confrontation practiced by Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., traveled eight weeks by bus to evangelical colleges to share what it’s like to be gay.

The next year, Sneed, who was fighting cancer, was weak from chemotherapy but walked 60 miles to help raise money for breast cancer research.

Now, with her home state set to vote on banning same-sex couples from marrying, Sneed is back on the move: Starting Aug. 8, she and other young Soulforce activists will walk 96 miles to the state capitol to share touching accounts of how the amendment would hurt real people.

She picked 96 miles for the six-day trek through egg-frying heat because that’s the number of years gay Arizonans haven’t had equal rights.

"Walking 96 miles," Sneed says of her bold adventure, "is nothing compared to a gay or lesbian person being told they can’t see their partner in their dying moments at a hospital because they don’t have full marriage rights."

At the same time as the blazing walk, other Soulforce activists will spread out to share their stories with Arizona’s young Mormons and senior citizens, two large voting blocs that most gay-rights supporters would write off. But Soulforce never writes anyone off.

"It is important to reach out and have those conversations, because until you get the dialogue started, you can’t start change," Sneed says.

Besides Arizona, marriage measures will be on the ballot in California and Florida. The broad Florida proposal would ban any sort of legal recognition for couples, except male-female marriage. To pass, it must get 60 percent of the vote.

California, where same-sex couples have been marrying since June 16, is the first state where voters will be asked whether marriage rights should be taken away from gay couples.

Two years ago, Arizona became the first to defeat a ballot measure that included a gay marriage ban. But that sweeping proposal, similar to the one up now in Florida, also would have banned domestic partner protections, even for heterosexuals.

This year, Arizonans will be voting solely on gay marriage. That distinction hints at the challenges — and opportunities — for activists determined to change hearts before Election Day.

Will voters in California or Arizona become the first to turn down an anti-gay amendment limited to marriage? California looks especially promising.

In Arizona, a Cronkite/Eight poll in February found voters supporting an amendment by 49-40 percent, with a whopping 11 percent undecided. Sneed sees those numbers as an invitation to keep talking and walking.

"If you just say, ‘Their minds are not going to change,’ then you are right, their minds are not going to change. But if you reach out to them, then there is a possibility."

Hearts are reached, the Arizona woman teaches, one step at a time.

The original article is available on the Detroit News website
www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080714/OPINION03/807140333