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Long-distance relationships have a reputation for failing and that’s what happened to University of Southern California film student A.J. Goodrich. He planned to walk across the country from Los Angeles to New York, where his boyfriend David was working as a stage manager. Goodrich planned to speak in support of gay-marriage in cities along the way and eventually get married in Boston, filming the trip to serve as Goodrich’s thesis film. But the couple broke up over the summer, when the distance proved to be too much to overcome. However, that did not derail Goodrich’s plan to walk across the United States and speak about gay-marriage and what it’s like to be gay in America.
“Something was nagging me and I still wanted to walk across America,” Goodrich said. “I wanted to talk to people about what it’s like to be gay and to try to cover the vast array of opinions on gay-marriage, coast to coast.”
Goodrich began his trek Tuesday at the Venice Pier, walking with fellow film students Satinder Kaur, John Conway and a camera crew who will accompany him for the duration of the journey. The first leg of the trip took the group to the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, 9.7 miles away. West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman greeted the group and thanked them for making the city the first stop in their long journey.
“I think it’s very fitting they are kicking off this walk in West Hollywood,” Heilman said. “We were one of the first cities with an openly LGBT majority on the city council and we have a very long history of promoting human rights.”
Heilman added that West Hollywood was one of the first cities to implement domestic partnership registration programs and ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and HIV status.
Heilman, who also teaches at USC, first heard of Goodrich’s idea while reading the school’s newspaper and decided to reach out to Goodrich to involve the city in the walk.
“I told them they would be welcomed with open arms in West Hollywood and if there was anything we could do, not to hesitate to ask,” Heilman said. “I was going to walk with them this morning, but they got here too quickly.”
Heilman added that he did plan to join Goodrich and his crew at some point during the summer when he is free from his job as a professor at USC.
Goodrich, Kaur and Conway initially planned to start the walk in San Francisco, but the plans fell through and the group decided to start in Southern California, making West Hollywood the first stop. The group will document the 4,000-mile, seven-month journey using digital cameras, and eventually release it as a documentary titled, “The Road Less Traveled By.” Kaur serves as one of the producers of the film, along with Conway, and she said the group would submit the project to various film festivals when they finish editing, sometime in 2012. Goodrich expects the walk itself to be completed by Aug. 15.
Kaur, who also serves as a producer of the film, said the timing of the walk was perfect due to current issues regarding gay-marriage and gay rights.
“It’s a civil rights issue,” Kaur said. “What better time than now with Proposition 8 and other issues being debated regarding gay rights?”
Goodrich said the group plans to walk 20 to 25 miles per day and he has prepared for the journey by hiking three miles a day in the hills around Silver Lake, his hometown. An RV driven by Mark Metivier, his best friend, will accompany the group and will serve as their supply truck and sleeping quarters for the next seven months. Their route will take them through more than 10 states including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Goodrich is hopeful their journey will open an intelligent dialogue about the issue of gay rights and gay-marriage.
“I believe that, at the end of the day, whether gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, we are all human,” Goodrich said. “We all love the same basic things, like equal opportunity and stability for ourselves and our families.”
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