Another early start this morning so that we could get to Laramie at the same time as the bus. Today the documentary film crew came along and complained that the folks on the Big Bus were being way too ‘on-message’. While that makes for a very effective political movement, it makes for lousy footage. We gossiped and joked and the miles flew by. Roland is the documentarian, shooting a 6-part series for the Q Network, the new gay gay gay! channel on cable. Roland is fab Hawaiian from Oahu, working his way through a combination of jet lag and unnaturally early mornings with cigarettes and a healthy dose of humor. Roland’s assistant Anthony follows him around with a tripod, not talking much but looking really cute.
We raced ahead of the Big Bus and got to Laramie in time to film them coming off of the freeway into town. Then we drove together into Laramie and the University of Wyoming, the only campus in the state.
UWyo campus is beautiful, tree-shaded with brown sandstone buildings rising from green lawns. Students move quickly from one place to another through the student union. Other students have set up tables promoting various causes. Within a half hour of arriving on campus, I was delighted to overhear several animated conversations about gay marriage rights. Within a half hour, many of the tables in the Student Union were staffed by folks wearing Freedom To Marry stickers. (None were spotted at the Students for Bush table, however.)
Out on the lawn, there was a wedding of three couples (straight, gay male, and lesbian). (The priest wore a kilt, which I don’t remember being regulation attire from my Catholic school days.) One guy stood to one side with a sign saying “This is God’s Country. Marriage is between a Man and a Woman.” He seemed vaguely embarrassed to be there. Afterwards, we had a panel discussion where various riders and locals told their stories. Then students asked questions. They asked what gay people had to do if they wanted children. They asked about other countries that recognize gay relationships. And people shared their stories of growing up gay in rural Montana.
On a trip that has had a large number of coincidences, another happened in Laramie. The local woman who was coordinating the event came up to me and said “Hi, are you Ron?” Once she reminded me I remembered her… we had spoken for a while on the ferry to Provincetown when Dan and I went out to make our wedding arrangements last May. It was a bit rough, and her girlfriend had spent the entire trip out hugging a trash barrel. (I was feeling pretty queasy myself but knew enough to stand in the wind at the front of the boat.)
Before leaving Laramie, we went to the Fireside bar, where Matthew Shepard first met his killers Aaron James McKinney and Russel Arthur Henderson. The bar is closed and for sale now. We formed a tight group on the patio. Reverends Helen and John gave a blessing while many of the riders wept.
Afterwards we were off to Cheyenne, about an hour away.
As we drove over the pass between cities we were struck with a sleet storm. Folks in the Big Bus told us that several accidents occurred on both sides of the freeway. (I was too focussed on driving to see them, though I saw the back-up on the Cheyenne side of the hill.) Luckily Frances, my VW bus, is equipped with four-wheel drive. I pulled engaged the driveshaft and we continued on without incident.
In Cheyenne, we were graciously welcomed by the local Unitarian Universalist community, who made us a meal of burgers, baked beans, killed macaroni salad, and delicious deserts. The church hall / basketball court was filled with riders and congregants talking about the injustice of denying gay couples the right to marriage while allowing straight folks on TV to marry millionaires and midgets. Then, like clockwork, we were headed south at 6 pm. Schedules must be kept.
Tonight we’re in Denver, where the local gay community is putting on a ‘Variety Show’ for our benefit. Tomorrow we’re being treated to breakfast by the Gill Foundation, followed by a rally.