Equality Riders Repeat History Lesson: 24 Arrested at BYU

For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, 646-258-7193

(Provo, UT) — Nine current and former BYU students and 15 Equality Riders were arrested today on the campus of Brigham Young University. The students and Riders were part of a procession carrying Easter lilies onto campus in remembrance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Latter Day Saints church members who have committed suicide because of the church’s oppressive stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.

"The lilies are symbolic of both life and death," said Haven Herrin, Equality Ride co-director. "It’s particularly fitting during the Christian Holy Week that we remember those whose lives were not able to bloom because of the despair they felt from their church’s teachings on homosexuality."

As the marchers reached the gates of the campus, they stepped forward with their lilies as stories and names of the individuals who had committed suicide were read aloud. The Riders and BYU students crossed onto campus one by one as the dead were remembered, and lay down in the grass until Provo police asked them to get up and escorted them off campus. Each arrested marcher left a lily behind until a pile of flowers had accumulated as a memorial to young people who were unable to resolve the conflict their church had created between their sexuality and religion.

BYU junior Matt Kulisch, a member of the Latter Day Saints and one of the students who participated in the action, cited his faith as part of his motivation for being arrested with the Equality Riders. "My church has always taught me the principle of standing for something true. My integrity demanded this message of God’s love for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people be told in its entirety."

Kulisch added, "Others have died because they did not receive this message. If I can’t put my life on the line in their memory then I’m not being who I should be."

"The fact that Matt and so many other students like him have come forward on this Ride to stand with us as we bring a message of inclusion to these schools is really inspiring," said Jacob Reitan, co-director of the Equality Ride. "The Ride is just the beginning of what we hope will be a youth movement sweeping the country, ending religion-based discrimination once and for all."

The Equality Ride will be in Colorado this Thursday and Friday, meeting with students at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

For more information, see: www.equalityride.com.

The Soulforce Equality Ride is a journey to change the heart and mind of America on the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. Following in the footsteps of the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s, the Equality Ride uses principles of non-violence to confront military and religious colleges and universities with policies banning enrollment of LGBT students. The Equality Riders reflect on the lessons of history, which have shown past religion-based discrimination against women, people of color, and religious minorities to be an unacceptable abuse of the sanctity of religion. At each of the 19 schools on the 51-day bus tour, the young adult ambassadors of the Equality Ride bring this simple message to students, faculty and administrators: Learn from history; end religion-based discrimination.