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South Bend, IN –
Six young adults were arrested today for walking onto the Notre Dame campus in a show of support for gay and lesbian equality. The arrestees are members of the Soulforce Equality Ride, a nationwide mission of 50 gay and straight youth leaders who seek to address religion-based discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students on anti-gay college campuses.
The six Soulforce members were joined by two Notre Dame students, Eddie Velazquez and a graduate theology student who requested anonymity, as they walked two by two carrying flowered wreaths intended for the site of the Tom Dooley memorial statue, a gay alumnus of Notre Dame who served in silence as a doctor in the Navy.
On Thursday, Notre Dame campus police issued trespass warnings to two Equality Riders for speaking with students in the cafeteria. Those Riders were the first arrested today for misdemeanor criminal trespassing. The other four Soulforce members were given written citations and then arrested on the same charges after attempting to continue the walk. Velazquez and the graduate student received an “official summons subject to immediate suspension” from campus. The Riders were able to deliver one of the three wreaths to the Dooley memorial site.
“As a gay Catholic man who was once in seminary, I walked onto Notre Dame today to help make my church a universal church. I did as Jesus Christ did and went all the way for love,” said Rider Delfin Bautista, who helped organize the stop in South Bend. The twenty-five Soulforce Equality Riders will continue to outreach to the local South Bend, Indiana, community with a film screening of “In Good Conscience,” the story of a Catholic nun who struggles with the Vatican for gay and lesbian equality.
Those arrested today include Haven Herrin, Delfin Bautista, Jess Kalup, Kelsey Pacha, Dan Seda, and Mike Cramer. They were released within hours with a ticket to appear in court at a later date.
For two years, Notre Dame has remained at the top of a list of least gay-friendly schools according to a Princeton Review survey of students at the college. AllianceND, an LGBT student group, has been denied official status as a student organization. Official student organizations may not be in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church, which holds that homosexual orientation is “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”
The westbound Equality Ride bus will continue its journey at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI on March 12. The school has agreed to a limited off-campus meeting but has yet to welcome the Soulforce Equality Ride for discussion of faith and gay and lesbian issues and may arrest Riders for walking on campus.
Three of the fifty Equality Riders are from Michigan, Brandon Kneefel, 20 years old from Livonia, Rachel Loskill, 21 years old from East Lansing and Shawn O’Neil, 22 years old from Marquette.