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State-wide bike trip is a journey for equality

June 21, 2012

Philip Cooper stands with his elliptical bicycle, taking a break from the heat. Cooper and his wife Ruth Ann, of Bloomington, are trekking across Indiana during the month of June to raise awareness of House Bill amendment 6, having to do with marriage rights.

PLYMOUTH — When Philip Cooper, 61, of Bloomington, decided to take a trip across Indiana for a cause this summer, he chose an unusual method of transportation for a reason.
“This is neither more comfortable nor more effective than a bicycle,” said Cooper, standing next to his bright neon green elliptical-style bike. “It’s meant for cross training for runners, but for my purposes — to get attention — it’s ideal.”
Cooper pedals about 50 miles each day in the sun, followed by his wife Ruth Ann in their camper. They’ve been on the road since June 2, and their journey will continue until they must return to their jobs — Philip is a city bus driver, and Ruth Ann is manager of employee health services in a hospital. Their goal is to discuss equality and marriage rights with passerby. Specifically, the couple is against an amendment to House Joint Resolution 6, which states that couples who are not married do not have the same legal rights as married couples. This, pointed out Ruth Ann, would include not only same-sex couples but also unmarried long-term heterosexual couples.
“The state needs to be gender-blind when it comes to recognizing marriages,” said Ruth Ann when the couple stopped in Plymouth Wednesday. “If two people, adults, have fallen in love and want to build a life together, who is the state to say no? The sacrament of marriage is different — that’s up to (an individual’s) religion or church (to allow).
She continued, “Legal marriage is different than ‘marriage in the eyes of God.’ The contract of marriage is what we feel should be open to all Indiana citizens. That’s a civil right that is being infringed.”
The Coopers wear bright-colored T-shirts that read, “With liberty and justice for all…we’ve all said it. Do we mean it?”
They said that they don’t approach people with their cause, but instead wait for people to approach them and ask about the T-shirts or the unusual bike. They’ve had a few of what Ruth Ann said were “difficult conversations” but they have also met many enthusiastic supporters.
“This trip was really designed as a way to have dialogue,” said Philip. “We want to encourage people to go out and have these discussions themselves.”
The Coopers’ trip was inspired in part by their adult daughter, who is a lesbian.
“As a parent, it is unfathomable to me that my daughter has different civil rights than I do because we have a different sexual orientation,” said Philip.
Ruth Ann added, “Our daughter is 37. If it takes 50 years (to legalize same-sex relationships) she will be dead before she has those rights.”
Both Philip and Ruth Ann also hope that they can encourage other parents with homosexual children. Along the way, Philip is writing daily Facebook posts about their experiences, which are open for public view.

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