Arizona Youth Lead Rally at State Capitol after 97 Mile Walk Across Phoenix

Equality Walkers” and community allies call for marriage equality

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 15, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Meg Sneed, Right to Marry: Arizona, 623-262-6696
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
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(Phoenix, AZ) After a week-long, 97 mile walk across metropolitan Phoenix, Meg Sneed and five other young adults from Right to Marry: Arizona concluded their pilgrimage at the State Capitol Building–meeting with elected officials and leading a spirited rally in support of marriage equality.  Throughout the week of August 9-15th, the group brought the discussion of same-sex marriage to religious leaders, public officials, and a wide variety of citizens across Phoenix.

Despite an unwelcoming summer heat, averaging over 100 degrees, the Equality Walkers found a receptive audience.  “Conversations with groups on porches, or with those sitting on benches with their coolers will stay with me,” says Melissa Halverson, co-director of Right to Marry: Arizona.  “Cars stopped on their way to work to ask, ‘what ARE you all,’ as we carried our rainbow umbrellas, and gave an encouraging ‘good luck and good work!’”

The rally at the State Capitol marked the end of the second annual Right to Marry walk in Phoenix.  The idea for the campaign emerged from Sneed’s participation in a three-day walk for breast cancer research.  As a cancer survivor herself, Sneed found the walk inspiring and decided to adapt it to the controversial debate over marriage equality in Arizona, walking a mile for every year the state has denied equal rights to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

“We walked for all those couples who are denied the right to love,” says Sneed.  “We walked for all those LGBT people who dream of the day that they will fall in love and the day that they will want to commit their lives to someone else.”

From Phoenix City Hall to the Arizona State Capitol, community allies walked the final mile with the Equality Walkers, closing the journey with a loud cry for marriage equality.  “We’ll be back every year until all the citizens of Arizona enjoy equal rights,” stated Sneed.  “We’ve waited over nine decades.  It’s time for us to stand up and say enough is enough!”

Sneed and her fellow Equality Walkers are members of Soulforce Q, the youth-driven arm of Soulforce, a national LGBT social justice organization.

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. For more information, visitwww.soulforce.org/righttomarry    

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Young Adults Reach Halfway Point in 97 Mile Walk Across Phoenix

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 12, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Meg Sneed, Right to Marry: Arizona, 623-262-6696
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
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(Phoenix, AZ) On Sunday, August 9, six young adults from Right to Marry: Arizona began a 97 mile walk from the Bible Church in Scottsdale to spark dialogue on marriage equality with religious leaders, city and state officials, and everyday citizens of Arizona.  With over 40 miles covered and dozens of challenging conversations behind them, the “equality walkers” have reached the halfway point in their journey.  Despite the heat, Meg Sneed and her team of six young equality advocates are determined to press on, promoting equal rights for Arizona’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

“We’ve had a great walk so far,” says Melissa Halverson, co-director of Right to Marry: Arizona, a campaign developed by Soulforce Q, the youth-driven arm of Soulforce, a national LGBT social justice organization.  “It’s tough conversations like the one’s we’ve had on the walk that will help bring marriage equality to Arizona, a state that has denied equal protection for LGBT folks for over nine decades.” 

This year marks the second annual Right to Marry walk in Arizona.  Sneed developed the campaign after participating in a three-day walk for breast cancer research.  As a cancer survivor, Sneed found the walk inspiring and decided to adapt her experience to the marriage equality debate in Arizona, walking a mile for every year the state has denied equal protection for its LGBT citizens.

“This year we’re focusing on the organizations and individuals who have spoken out strongly against marriage equality,” says Sneed.  “We’re stopping at churches, parks, and city hall to say enough is enough; it’s time to recognize and respect the rights of all the people in Arizona.”

The walkers have four days left in their trip, and will take on the following route:

  • Day 4: Wednesday, August 12th: Dayspring United Methodist Church to Cesar Chavez Park
  • Day 5: Thursday, August 13th: Cesar Chavez Park to  Glendale City Hall
  • Day 6: Friday, August 14th: Glendale City Hall to Catholic Bishop
  • Day 7: Saturday, August 15th: Catholic Bishop to Phoenix City Hall 

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. For more information, visit www.soulforce.org/righttomarry                                                                                                   ###                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                             

Young Adults Reach Halfway Point in 97 Mile Walk Across Phoenix

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 12, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Meg Sneed, Right to Marry: Arizona, 623-262-6696
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
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(Phoenix, AZ) On Sunday, August 9, six young adults from Right to Marry: Arizona began a 97 mile walk from the Bible Church in Scottsdale to spark dialogue on marriage equality with religious leaders, city and state officials, and everyday citizens of Arizona.  With over 40 miles covered and dozens of challenging conversations behind them, the “equality walkers” have reached the halfway point in their journey.  Despite the heat, Meg Sneed and her team of six young equality advocates are determined to press on, promoting equal rights for Arizona’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

“We’ve had a great walk so far,” says Melissa Halverson, co-director of Right to Marry: Arizona, a campaign developed by Soulforce Q, the youth-driven arm of Soulforce, a national LGBT social justice organization.  “It’s tough conversations like the one’s we’ve had on the walk that will help bring marriage equality to Arizona, a state that has denied equal protection for LGBT folks for over nine decades.” 

This year marks the second annual Right to Marry walk in Arizona.  Sneed developed the campaign after participating in a three-day walk for breast cancer research.  As a cancer survivor, Sneed found the walk inspiring and decided to adapt her experience to the marriage equality debate in Arizona, walking a mile for every year the state has denied equal protection for its LGBT citizens.

“This year we’re focusing on the organizations and individuals who have spoken out strongly against marriage equality,” says Sneed.  “We’re stopping at churches, parks, and city hall to say enough is enough; it’s time to recognize and respect the rights of all the people in Arizona.”

The walkers have four days left in their trip, and will take on the following route:

Day 4: Wednesday, August 12th: Dayspring United Methodist Church to Cesar Chavez Park   Day 5: Thursday, August 13th: Cesar Chavez Park to  Glendale City Hall                                 Day 6: Friday, August 14th: Glendale City Hall to Catholic Bishop                                            Day 7: Saturday, August 15th: Catholic Bishop to Phoenix City Hall 

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. For more information, visit www.soulforce.org/righttomarry                                                                                                   ###                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                             

Arizona Youth Make Great Strides toward Marriage Equality

LocalEquality Walkers” span 97 miles to build awareness around same-sex marriage

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 9, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Meg Sneed, Right to Marry: Arizona, 623-262-6696
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
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(Phoenix, AZ) Beneath a sweltering summer morning sun in Scottsdale, Arizona, six young adults from Right to Marry: Arizona embarked on a week-long 97 mile walk from the Bible Church in Scottsdale to the state capital in Phoenix, seeking to engage religious leaders, city and state officials, and everyday citizens on the thorny subject of same-sex marriage.  Carrying rainbow umbrellas to ward off the sun’s rays, the Equality Walkers will walk a mile for every year Arizona has failed to provide equal protection for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

This year marks the second annual Right to Marry walk in Arizona, a campaign developed by Meg Sneed of Soulforce Q, the youth-driven arm of Soulforce, a national LGBT social justice organization.  “The walk is long, but it’s all worth it,” says Sneed.  “It’s time for youth to weigh in on the importance of civil rights and social justice for everyone.  Part of that process requires tough conversations, and that’s why we’re out here talking to as many different people as we can.”

Sneed crafted the idea for Right to Marry after participating in an inspiring three-day walk for breast cancer research.  As a cancer survivor herself, Sneed found long-distance walking both challenging and empowering.

“Walking 97 miles in August may seem crazy, and yes maybe it is a little crazy, but it is also crazy for the state of Arizona to deny people the right to marry the person they love for the last 96 years,” says Sneed.

While last years Right to Marry walk centered around Proposition 102, Arizona’s “defense of marriage” legislation which passed last November, this year the Equality Walkers will take their pilgrimage to those communities which had the highest number of votes in favor of marriage inequality.  Sneed and her fellow travelers will make periodic stops on their journey to lead discussions at churches, city halls, and parks across the Valley.

“We’re prepared to add a mile every year until all the people of Arizona have the right to marry,” says Luis Garcia, a longtime resident of the Phoenix community and a fellow Equality Walker.

The walkers will follow this route:

Day 1: Sunday, August 9th: Scottsdale Bible Church to All Saints Catholic Newman Center   

Day 2: Monday, August 10th: All Saints Catholic Newman Center to Parish of the Diocese of Phoenix Saint Mary’s                                                                                                                   

Day 3: Tuesday, August 11th: Parish of the Diocese of Phoenix Saint Mary’s to Dayspring United Methodist Church                                                                                                                         

Day 4: Wednesday, August 12th: Dayspring United Methodist Church to Cesar Chavez Park  

Day 5: Thursday, August 13th: Cesar Chavez Park to  Glendale City Hall                                 

Day 6: Friday, August 14th: Glendale City Hall to Catholic Bishop                                            

Day 7: Saturday, August 15th: Catholic Bishop to Phoenix City Hall 

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. For more information, visit www.soulforce.org/righttomarry                                                                                                   ###                                                                                                                                                       

Young Adults Complete 96 Mile Walk Across Phoenix

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: August 26, 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)–Meg Sneed and her team of six other lesbian and gay young adults have completed their pilgrimage across metropolitan Phoenix. Over the week of August 10-15, the group walked 96 miles to talk with Arizonans about how Proposition 102, a constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot, would negatively impact young people.

The average temperature during their walk was 105 degrees.

The idea for the walk 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. She hoped that a similar walk would inspire young people to join the conversation about Arizona’s priorities.

Proposition 102 would define marriage as between one man and one woman. Opponents like Sneed point out that state law already prohibits same-sex marriage and Arizona voters defeated similar legislation in 2006.

Along the route, the young "equality walkers" shared their perspectives with ordinary citizens, elected officials, and local community organizations, including the Tempe Community Council. They were welcomed for conversation at several churches, including the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise and the Church of the Beatitudes, Central United Methodist Church, and All Saints Episcopal Church in Phoenix.

"I realize now just how much difference I can make in my community," says walker C.J. Minott, who will be returning to University of Arizona campus this fall to continue his studies in Psychology.

"These young people truly amazed me," says Julie Roberts, Programs Director at Equality Arizona. "Their dedication to this walk and their sense of purpose was incredible."

Sneed and the other walkers are members of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, a national civil rights and social justice organization. Soulforce Q collaborated with Equality Arizona and two other statewide organizations, Arizona Together and Wingspan, in the planning and execution of this campaign.

Soulforce 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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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

Military Recruiters Lock The Doors on Gay Americans

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 25, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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Last Tuesday, when Rebecca Solomon and Jesus Sanchez approached an Army recruitment station in Austin, Texas, they found the doors locked at mid-morning. That same day, Meg Sneed came to a recruiting center in Phoenix with the intention of enlisting in the Coast Guard, but found the office locked and dark. And on Wednesday, three more potential recruits traveled to the Armed Forces Recruitment Center in Times Square — reportedly the busiest recruitment center in the country — only to find the center empty and the doors locked for the duration of the day.

These would-be recruits are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a coordinated effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze national discussion about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The campaign comes at a pivotal moment, as military recruiters have eased standards in order to admit some recruits without high school diplomas and even some with criminal records. Since the beginning of the summer, twenty-five openly gay Americans have attempted to enlist as part of the Right to Serve Campaign. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Last week marked a turning point in the campaign, as recruiting offices across the country closed their doors rather than offer recruiting interviews to openly gay youth.

In New York, the Armed Forces Recruitment Center, which is normally open every day of the year, was closed without warning. When Right to Serve campaigners Curt Peterson, Kamal Davis, and Rhonda Davis found the center empty, they held an all-day vigil and sit-in outside the center. They were joined by more than eighty supporters from nearby schools and colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that their scheduled appointments had been cancelled without notice.

In Austin, Solomon and Sanchez had both attempted to enlist in recent weeks, but were turned away because of sexual orientation. They returned to the recruiting center with the intent of holding a sit-in with their supporters. Although the doors were locked, recruiters were plainly visible inside the office, and Sanchez and Solomon were able to slip inside when one of the recruiters exited. After a brief sit-in, Solomon and Sanchez were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

Greensboro, North Carolina was the only city where openly gay youth were given the opportunity to sit down with recruiters last week. Four young men and women began the interview process, but the interviews were terminated when the enlistees revealed their sexual orientations. The enlistees were promptly joined by community supporters, and they commenced a sit-in inside the recruitment center. The four recruits and supporters were arrested and removed from the center in handcuffs.

In Phoenix, Meg Sneed — an out lesbian with a longstanding dream of joining the Coast Guard — will return to the recruiting center another day to try to enlist again.

Throughout this week, Right to Serve campaigners will keep "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" in the public eye with attempted enlistments in Washington, D.C., and Spokane, Washington, on Tuesday and Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday. In addition, enlistees who have already been denied the Right to Serve in Madison, Wisconsin, and Charlottesville, Virginia, will gather supporters for sit-ins at military recruitment centers.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.