Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gay advocates send shoes to Senate

Gay advocates send shoes to Senate


(Original publication: July 24, 2007)
NYACK - A group of young activists is calling on New Yorkers to clear their closets of old sneakers, stilettos and Oxfords and send them to the state capital.

The old shoes are being packed and shipped to Albany to the office of New York state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, carrying a message in support of a bill that would allow same-sex marriage.

"We're saying walk a mile in our shoes and then perhaps you will be less likely to stymie the progress of this marriage-equality bill," said Matthew Nelson, a member of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, an organization that promotes equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Eight activists from Soulforce Q have made Nyack their base over the past week, planning and coordinating trips throughout Rockland and Westchester to try to gain support for their Right to Marry Campaign.

They have canvassed communities -including Nyack, Tarrytown, Chappaqua and Irvington - asking people to send their shoes to Bruno along with a message asking him to support the bill.

"We want to inundate his office with these shoes to send a message that he needs to allow this to go the Senate floor to be voted," said Nelson, co-director for Soulforce Q's South Bus, one of four Soulforce buses traveling throughout the state.

Nelson did not know how many pairs of shoes had been sent because the team had encouraged people to send them as individuals.

They approached people at church services, parks and community events, giving them cards to tie to their shoes, with Bruno's address and room for their message.

The Soulforce Q team has also met with local elected officials or their representatives urging them to support a bill that would allow gay couples to marry.

The Assembly passed legislation June 19 that would give same-sex couples the same legal status, benefits and protections that heterosexual couples have. The bill was proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

It awaits action in the state Senate, but Bruno, R-Brunswick, has said he opposed same-sex marriage.

Soulforce members and other gay-rights activists believe he will prevent the bill from coming to a vote.

Nyack Mayor John Shields, a local leader in the fight for same-sex marriage, said he thought New York state was on track to allowing marriage equality. He said he hoped Soulforce's work helped get the word out to the public - and to Bruno.

"We hope this encourages him to act as a leader in the Senate and to promote rights for all New Yorkers," said Shields, who plans to search through his closet for an old pair of shoes to send upstate.

Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage. Other states, including Connecticut and New Jersey, allow civil unions.

For more information, visit www.righttomarry.org.

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