Equality Riders Visit Anti-LGBT Christian Colleges
Seventeen young activists hit the road from Philadelphia on March 4 for a two-month national bus tour visiting colleges that openly discriminate against LGBT students.
The Soulforce Equality Riders made their first stop in Atlanta on March 6, where they were locked out of Carver College, a Bible college that expels students in same-sex relationships. The ride will end in San Francisco on May 2.
"We really just want to target oppression where it starts, where the base is, and we believe that the root is visiting these institutions in our country," said J. Mason, 27, who co-directs the Soulforce Equality Ride.
Launched by the national LGBT social justice group Soulforce, the tour will stop at 15 colleges with anti-LGBT policies. The group has visited more than 70 institutions since the first Equality Ride six years ago, resulting in at least seven policy changes and 30 new gay-straight alliance clubs.
The expulsion of LGBT students and staff and use of "ex gay" therapy are just some of the practices Soulforce hopes to change at more than 200 private Christian colleges across the country.
"At a lot of these schools, if you are expelled, you can’t even get your transcripts, so you have to start all over some place new," said Mason.
The riders put on forums, nonviolent demonstrations and connect with marginalized LGBT students on campus at each of their stops. Not all of the colleges ban the riders from entering campus, but often times, students only find out about the tour’s arrival on the Internet.
"We talked to so many students who kept saying, ’Oh I have a friend that’s gay,’ and about the fear of their ’friends,’" said Mason in reference to speaking with students at Wheaton College in Chicago last week. "People did not feel comfortable telling us that they themselves were gay or bi or queer, so that definitely spoke volumes."