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Equality Riders
arrested again at Brigham Young University

Equality Riders
arrested again at Brigham Young University

Two dozen gay rights activists were arrested Tuesday and cited for trespassing on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah, while protesting what they consider discrimination by campus officials. The protest was organized by Soulforce, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender group that has mounted the Equality Ride, a nationwide bus tour of schools it believes discriminate against gays. Five protesters were arrested and cited for trespassing Monday. BYU was the 13th school the group had visited. Only their first stop at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., yielded more arrests, with 25, said Equality Ride co-organizer Jake Reitan. About 30 Riders carrying Easter lilies silently marched from a temple operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the main entrance of the church-owned university. The LDS church considers homosexuality a sin, and its practice grounds for excommunication. The church has campaigned against legalizing same-sex marriage, and it is a violation of the university's honor code for students to engage in "homosexual activity." The 35 lilies the group carried represented gay Mormon students who have committed suicide since 1965, according to Soulforce. Leading the protesters, who come from across the country and range in age from 18 to 28, was BYU student Matt Kulisch, who is openly gay. "I'm proud to say I'm gay. I'm proud to say I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me," Kulisch said. Kulisch, of Spokane, Wash., was the first protester cited for trespassing when he stepped onto campus carrying a lily and lay down, representing those who have committed suicide. Kulisch's unauthorized act of "public expression" was a violation of the university's conduct code, said university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins. "We do not allow campus to be used as a public forum," Jenkins said. News reporters and photographers were prohibited from coming onto campus during the protest as well, including those from the BYU student newspaper. "On this campus you really can't express yourself," said Brian Carl, a 26-year-old senior from Ventura, Calif. "It's very disappointing. The administration is afraid. It's not going to kill anybody's testimony, and if it does, then they didn't have a testimony to begin with." Carl said he loves BYU but has been disappointed with the lack of dialogue on gay rights, which he said has led to a cloud of fear among some of his gay friends. One of those friends, Emil Pohlig, a senior from Draper, Va., said he's leaving BYU after this semester in hopes of transferring to the University of Utah. "I'd rather not stay at a university where I can't be myself," he said. The activists gained little attention from students passing by, with no more than a dozen stopping to listen to a speech by the group, although several students asked what the march was about. One passerby yelled a derogatory comment from a car, but most said they couldn't hear it. The Riders will protest at several other private religious schools as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy. (AP)

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