A Long March for Marriage Equality

QUEERTY IN-DEPTH–

We just felt we had to do something. We were in the marches right after the election, but every time we wound up marching right back to West Hollywood. We were tired of marching in circles. We wanted to go somewhere.

This is how Valerie Paget explains why she and her wife, Tracie Jones, decided to go on 450-mile protest march from West Hollywood to the Supreme Court in San Francisco, where they arrived over the weekend.

The trip took a little over a month, and on the day we caught up with the women in Salinas, California, they were in good spirits. “One of the things we wanted to do was to go to the places that voted against our interests and meet them. It’s as much about being visible and talking to people as it is the marching,” said Paget.

As talking to strangers is a goal, it’s nice to know people have been so receptive to the lesbian couple. “Originally we had planned on camping or checking into a hotel every night, but for all but two nights out of the trip, people have put us up. It’s really amazing”, Valerie said, noting that sometimes people offer because they hear about her on the Internet.

As the pair moved through California, each wearing a sign – one reading “L.A. to S.F.” and the other “Revoke Prop. 8” – they reportedly had nothing but good encounters with people. Sometimes passersby waved at them while they walk along the road, other times they offered food or drinks. Valerie marveled, “One town we walked into and we got to the gas station and the lady at the counter there already had packed up lunches for us to eat, because word had gotten ahead of us that we were coming.” “You always wonder how people are going to react when they see you walking into town with these signs on, but we’ve been amazed by how warm and friendly everyone’s been,” she added.

The couple kept supporters abreast of their journey by blog, with entries that read like a post-modern version of a frontier journal. For example:

“DAY 20 – Edna joined us again today. We were on a long stretch of the 101 / dirt roads / and railroad tracks. This is what most of our day looked like. . . fields and mountains in the background. Beautiful, but exhausting walking along the freeway. The last 5 miles we walked into a STRONG wind. We looked a little windblown at days end. Again, we have to say how great Edna was – she was sore and blistered, but soldiered on!

We stopped along the way to have some lunch, check the email, look at some maps, etc.

We did notice that the closer we got to Salinas, the more love we got from passersby. And we are so glad to have completed the more desolate area of our trip . . . and we’re also very glad that we walked through it.

We ended our day at Lisa and Melissa’s house. Here we are at dinner with them and their friends: Amber, Lisa, Shaylla, Tracie, Edna, Melissa, Rosa, and Liana. We had a great time getting to know them over dinner. They worked very hard with No on Prop 8 and are still just as engaged to make sure Prop 8 gets repealed.”

In addition to being a visible sign of protest, Tracie and Valerie found themselves making connections and friendships with marriage equality advocates in rural California who have felt isolated from the cities where protests and civic actions have occurred. Along the way they collected signatures for a petition that would begin the process of getting a ballot initiative to repeal Prop. 8 in California and arriving on the steps of the California Supreme Court on Friday, they delivered letters and signatures on the day of the court’s filing deadline for the upcoming case reviewing Prop. 8’s constitutionality.

In the end though, Valerie and Tracie say that their main goal was to start a conversation and keep people talking and thinking about equal rights for gays and lesbians. As Valerie puts it, “You wear a sign around your neck and people come up and talk to you.”