New York Students Join Forces with Business Leaders for Marriage Equality

New York Students Join Forces with Business Leaders for Marriage Equality

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: February 7, 2008


For Immediate Release


Contact: Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org

Jarrett Lucas, 215-917-3703, jarrett@soulforce.org

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(Thursday, February 8, 2008)—This spring semester, some New York state students are learning real-world skills while contributing to a community-based project.  But for the young New Yorkers participating in the Right to Marry campaign, what’s at stake is much more than just a grade or an item on a resume: the outcome will shape one of the most personal and significant aspects of their adulthood.

“If New York students don’t speak to our community leaders about how marriage equality will impact us, we’re letting a previous generation determine the future of our families,” says Alexey Bulokov, an alumnus of the College of New Rochelle.

The Right to Marry campaign is the invention of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, a national social justice organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. 

In July 2007, Soulforce Q organized teams of young adults to travel across the state of New York, from Long Island to Niagara Falls. Partnering with local citizens and organizations, the youth met with lawmakers and mayors, and spoke with ordinary citizens at events from the state fair to the Ironman competition, all in the effort to create a statewide conversation about the need for marriage equality.

This semester, Soulforce Q is training student leaders and student organizations in four regions—the Bronx, Binghamton, Plattsburgh, and the Hudson Valley—to reach out to local business leaders and ask them to publicly express their support for marriage equality.

It’s a model with multiple benefits according to Haven Herrin, Director of Soulforce Q. 

“The students learn to organize a grassroots campaign, interact with business professionals, and become more engaged in their communities.  The businesses have the opportunity to interact with trendsetters and future leaders and to build new constituencies,” says Herrin.

According to a 2006 study by the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA, numerous businesses stand to reap direct gains from marriage equality: retail gifts, hotels, florists, restaurants, caterers, etc. The study estimates that same-sex couples’ weddings could create approximately $2 billion in new business for those industries nationwide.  Many more businesses stand to gain through increased employee productivity and competitiveness in workforce recruitment.

College students will take the lead in identifying pro-equality businesses, marriage-related businesses, and other businesses that are leaders in their communities. Teams comprised of students and local citizens will go out into the community to speak with business owners and get their feedback. Those who are willing to go on record in support of marriage equality will receive a plaque, a window sticker, and an invitation to write a letter of support.

“Their responses will become part of a document that tells the story of small business owners who are ready to support marriage equality because it is necessary for the vitality of their community that they help sustain,” says Jarrett Lucas, Director of Outreach for Soulforce Q.  Soulforce Q will work with local students to share the document with key decision-makers, including mayors and state legislators.

"The more connections we make within and between our communities, the more unity we find. It gives us hope and strength to work until all citizens are ensured the equal rights they deserve,” says Erica Olmstead, a student at SUNY Plattsburgh who will work on the campaign.

To find out more about the Right to Marry campaign, to get involved, or to become a supporting business, go to: www.righttomarry.org

Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance.

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