As of press time, 21-year-old CJ Minott, a UA senior, will be finishing a 96-mile trek through metro Phoenix as part of Soulforce Q's Right to Marry project, to talk to legislators, church groups and others about what marriage means to LGBT young adults, and how the vote on Proposition 102 this November will impact their future. They will stop at nine city halls along the way. For more information about the project and Soulforce, visit righttomarry.org. The group's schedule is online, and anybody can join them.

How did you find out about the walk?

I've always followed the different activities that Soulforce has done across the country. But this time, I really wanted to get involved, because this is my home state. This is personal. Soulforce Q is part of the national organization that specifically works with young people. Two months out of the year, they do an Equality Ride and travel to different colleges known to be discriminatory toward LGBT students. They believe in an approach of nonviolence and having conversations and open dialogue between people who might disagree.

What made you want to walk 96 miles for this project?

When I first read about it, I thought, "This is a beautiful campaign." It is such a simple way to show our common dreams and power. I love the fact that it's in my home state of Arizona.

But what's significant about 96 miles?

Arizona has been a state for 96 years, and for 96 years, we've lived without equal marriage protection. Growing up in a Christian family, marriage was always considered important to me. But because of Proposition 102, it's possible I won't have that in my life. It's a state law that marriage is only between a man and a woman, then Proposition 107 (to put the ban in the state Constitution) came up in (2006) and was voted down by the people, and now politicians are bringing back up the same thing again.

How does this hike work?

We want to finish at the state Capitol in Phoenix, but it ranges from 12 miles on the shortest day to 23 miles on the longest day. There's a core group of seven of us, and we expect people will join us for an hour or even longer, whatever they can do.

Were you surprised when state Sen. Tim Bee brought this whole thing up again in the state Legislature?

I was really surprised. All the people of Arizona had already voted on it, and we voted no. Now there is more acceptance and many other burning issues, and I don't understand why we have to keep going back to this.

If you meet people along the way, what do you hope they'll learn?

I would want them to know that this is something that is very important to me as a young adult. I've lived here most of my life, and I plan to stay. Arizona is my home. Marriage is something that I was brought up to believe in, and it is a big part of the foundation of our country. That's why I'm willing to stand and walk 96 miles. It's a part of my personal worldview as a Christian and a gay man.

Do you think this will be resolved in your lifetime?

I definitely do. I feel extreme joy, and I'm very positive about this. I have so much support from friends back in Phoenix and friends in Tucson. Even some of the people I know who are very conservative church-goers are supportive of me and what I'm doing, because they recognize my passion. I have a lot of hope for the future of Arizona and for the country.

Well, you might have more hope than I do. People who don't want you to have equal rights ... what do you think they just don't get?

They don't realize we're not that different than anyone else. We want to find a person we love and have a strong stable family. ... There are some differences, but I'm still just trying to find the person I want to love and have a family with, just like almost everyone else I know.

Is Sen. Bee invited?

Tim Bee is definitely invited. I doubt he'd be joining us, but you never know. We welcome everyone to walk with us and talk with us. This whole thing is to get people sharing.

Why do you have hope?

During the civil rights movement and women's liberation, many thought they weren't going to win. Eventually, they did. When people make up their mind about the right thing to do, it's hard to convince them to continue hurting other people. In this case, eventually, people will see this for what it really is: discrimination. And Prop 102 is discrimination that Arizona already said no to.


More by Mari Herreras


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