DENVER, Colorado - July 12 - Next week, dozens of families from across the country will come together with Soulforce to confront the homophobic rhetoric of James Dobson and Focus on the Family. The event, called The 1000 Watt March, Vigil, and Concert: Shedding the Powerful Light of Truth on the Anti-Gay Dishonesty of Focus on the Family will be a week-long justice action, as gay and lesbian families with children, heterosexual allies, and LGBT people from across America participate in a 65-mile "relay" style march from the state capitol building in Denver to the headquarters of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.
Leading the marchers in the final two-mile walk from Rampart Park in Colorado Springs to the headquarters of Focus on the Family on July 22 will be activists Chad Allen and Judy Shepard. Though they come from different worlds – one is an actor with a lifetime of credits that belie his youth, the other is a mom who came to activism through a devastating family tragedy – they bring a similar message: “Dr. Dobson, please end your vicious attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families!”
At 32, Chad Allen is an actor with experience beyond his years. His first major role came on TV’s St. Elsewhere at the age of eight. He went on to star on a succession of successful TV shows as a child star, including Webster, Our House, and My Two Dads. As an adult, he was on the long-running series, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and has starred in numerous other roles on the stage and in film, most recently in the missionary story, The End of the Spear.
After coming out publicly in 2001, Allen says that his experiences as a gay man have led to a new understanding of the word, “family:”
“The gay community exemplifies the truth of “family” as it learns to walk together through fear to fight prejudice and discrimination with the most potent force in the universe... Love.”
Allen continues, “It is with sincere humility, a dose of fear, and extraordinary pleasure that I accepted Soulforce's invitation to lead the final leg of the 1000 Watt March, Vigil, & Concert. I’ve never known such an awesome display of courage as when a community marches together in solidarity for what is right.”
Allen adds Soulforce to the long list of organizations which he has supported, including The March of Dimes, Project Angel Food, the Autistic Children's Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, AIDS Project Arizona, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.
(For more information on Chad Allen, see: www.chadallenonline.com)
No one outside her immediate circle of family and friends knew who Judy Shepard was until an unspeakable tragedy forced her into the country’s spotlight nearly eight years ago, when her son Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered because he was gay. After the horrible events of those days in the fall of 1998, it would have been understandable for a parent to withdraw into private grief. But Judy Shepard and her husband Dennis responded to their pain by reaching out, forming the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an organization which honors their son’s memory by supporting educational projects, activities, and documentaries that raise awareness of the issues involving discrimination and diversity. Judy Shepard has become a public spokesperson for ending hate-based violence in America, speaking to dozens of schools, churches and community groups every year. She and her husband have appeared in public service announcements produced by GLSEN and MTV, and the Human Rights Campaign, to end hate speech and bullying in schools and inequality for LGBT people.
Shepard hopes this Soulforce event will be part of a growing movement of people of faith standing up to the religious right’s bigotry toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. "It is an honor to take part in the 1000 Watt March, Vigil & Concert and I look forward to being a part of such wonderful expression of hope,” Shepard says. “For too long, Focus on the Family, James Dobson, and others who share their narrow views, have used misinformation and intolerance to marginalize the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and its allies. People of faith, gay or straight, must now stand up and let everyone know that they will no longer allow those narrow views define their relationship with their God."
(For more information on the Matthew Shepard Foundation, see: www.matthewshepard.org)
After Shepard and Allen lead the final march to the Focus on the Family headquarters, the crowd will encircle James Dobson's headquarters, joining hearts and hands in vigil as they peacefully call on him to cease his defamation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Afterwards, Broadway star Billy Porter will protest in song outside Focus on the Family, with an electrifying jazz concert that celebrates the lives of all people and loving relationships that seek the American dream.
The purpose of the march is to help America connect the dots between the defamatory rhetoric that flows from Focus on the Family and the legislative assault on the civil liberties of LGBT people and their families.
To find out more about the Soulforce 1000 Watt March, Vigil and Concert, please see: www.soulforce.org/1000wattmarch.
Consistent with the first step in the principles of nonviolence taught by Gandhi and King, Soulforce researched and documented false claims by Focus on the Family about LGBT people, couples and families. That research is compiled in a booklet, entitled "A False Focus on My Family" and a DVD, entitled, "Dear Dr. Dobson". This powerful and eye-opening booklet is available free online at www.soulforce.org/article/false-focus-family and the DVD is available free to press upon request.