Justin and I have been thinking about starting a social justice site for a while now. We've talked it over with some friends and associates who are interested in writing about equality, and launched the site over the weekend. Take a look at the new Engine of Change.

I was watching Glen Beck today, who suggested that legislation supporting marriage equality has a more sinister motive of suppressing church religious freedoms. This argument, or some variation of it, has appeared in a number of anti-same-sex-marriage public campaigns. For a great example, take a look at the (fantastically well-designed) Yes On Prop 8 ad archives.

The idea is this: churches should be able to decide whether or not to perform marriages in accordance with their religious beliefs. Legislating that all church perform marriages for same-sex couples who approach them would be undue government interference in religious self-determination.

On the other hand, if legislation defines marriage as between one man and one woman, then a significant number of churches (for example Reform Judaism, the MCC, UCC, and various progressive congregations) are essentially prohibited from exercising their own religious beliefs.

For months now, my friend Justin has been trying to get me up to the cities, and, more importantly, to meet the people on the Equality Ride. While I can’t hope to express what the ride is without having been on it, the best story I can offer is that of 50-odd young adults traveling around the country on two buses, going to college campuses which make life hard for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. Some universities have policies so severe, students may be suspended or expelled for supporting their gay friends or family. The ride aims to change this by, well, talking. Talking to students about their experiences with sexual and gender identity, explaining how their faith interacts with those, and challenging arguments that these identities are fundamentally immoral.

The other half of the ride is more a public relations effort: when schools refuse the ride access to campus, riders stand vigil at the sidewalk, walk around the campus borders, or deliberately trespass. At one stop, riders carried pictures of their family. At another, they left lilies to symbolize the suicides of LGBT students, and read those stories aloud. “All we want to do is talk,” the campaign seems to plead, “and yet we are handcuffed and arrested because the school doesn’t want their students to have this dialogue.”

While I agree wholeheartedly with the Equality Ride’s efforts to talk with students, this method of civil disobedience rests uneasy with me. I think it’s disrespectful to invade a private property, especially as a part of an organized group. These colleges have the right to bar people from their property, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the right to determine a code of conduct for students. Surely a college can enforce its own attendance criteria: for example, as a man, I wouldn’t complain about being denied entrance to a woman’s university.

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