By Laurie Stone: CNJ Correspondent
PORTALES — Some Eastern New Mexico University students are trying to make a statement today — by staying silent.
The Day of Silence is a national youth movement organized to protest harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.
Those participating in the Day of Silence will wear a red T-shirt and avoid speaking as much as possible until 6 p.m., when a rally is scheduled at the Campus Union Building’s patio.
“Gay people should be treated just like heterosexuals — accepted and not just tolerated,” said Tracy Riley, an ENMU student who organized the Day of Silence. Riley is originally from Oklahoma, but said he has lived in Portales for the last six years.
“We hate violence and we want equal rights as our heterosexual counterparts have,” said Tino Cordova of Clovis, an ENMU student and a participant in the movement.
Not everyone in Portales is responding to the movement with silence.
Mark Vigil, owner of Mark’s Restaurant and Catering, said he plans to answer the Day of Silence by promoting a Day of Truth on Thursday, providing what he said is a Christian viewpoint on the homosexual lifestyle.
His restaurant displays a sign promoting a Web site (www.telladf.org/truth) he said offers additional information.
“I put the sign up so I could express my Christian perspective,” Vigil said. “I’m not judging anyone’s lifestyle. I want those who have questions to have another source to find answers to their questions.
“I’m doing nothing different than exercising my First Amendment right that is available to not just me, but everybody.”
At ENMU’s Baptist Student Union Fellowship, Director Brian Townsend said his response to the Day of Silence is no response.
“I do not condone their (gay-lesbian) lifestyle but it is not for me to turn on someone and be a bullhorn in their life to say that what they are doing is wrong,” Townsend said. “I believe the only way to ultimately change someone’s behavior is to embrace them with love.
“We have to speak truth, but we must first love them enough to gain the right to speak into their lives.
“For all the energy we put into protesting homosexuals, if we would put the same energy into loving those we do not understand then things would be different. Out of the context of (a) relationship, who will listen to you if they think that you do not care about them?”