Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the Oct. 11 National Equality March that took place in Washington, D.C. Windy City Times compiled thoughts from locals ( some of whom attended ) about the march and the Human Rights Campaign gala that President Barack Obama spoke at the previous night:
Gail Morse, attorney: "I was struck by the diversity in the crowd: young and old; gay and straight; and ethnic diversity, too. I was offended by Congressman Barney Frank ( "Crank" ) 's comment that it was a waste of time. It is never a waste to exercise one of our fundamental rights. While we all supported Obama, by and large his speech the night before was unremarkable in its lack of specifics or any real passion for the urgency of the need to end discrimination against our community."
State Rep. Greg Harris: "I think that the march and the rallies in cities around the United States show how important achieving full equality in society is to hundreds of thousands of LGBT Americans. People should now take the knowledge they acquired during these events and use their energy by continuing the fight in their hometowns and states as well as pressuring Congress and President Obama to give our community full equality."
Danny Kopelson, Center on Halsted director of communications and public relations: "I was fortunately able to go to DC and attend the march. My primary take-a-ways were:
"1. Optimism: Happily, the current struggle for LGBT rights seem to be in the very capable and powerful hands of younger LGBT individuals and straight allies. On Saturday, I ran into a flash-mob protest at the White House that consisted of hundreds of young people aggressively demonstrating for our civil rights. At the march itself ( run mostly by young people ) , I would say half the crowd was in their 20s. This is very exciting for me, who inherited the fight from LGBT leaders before me and feel secure that it can be passed on to a new generation that will create the change we have fought for, for so many years.
"2. Cautious optimism: I think Obama is in a difficult position related to his speech at HRC. ( I was not there. ) Do we strike while the iron is hot while we have a Democratic Congress? If so, how many LGBT issues can pass? Do we have the votes even now? Or do we need to wait and if so, how long? I know healthcare, the economy and the two wars are also part of my personal "LGBT" agenda and all impact my life in major ways. He said all the right things, I remain "cautiously optimistic." But that is better than I've ever felt about any president prior to Obama in regard to our rights.
"3. Fear: HIV/AIDS has almost completely fallen off the radar screen, even for LGBT people. I attended the Equality to End AIDS rally on Saturday night and there were perhaps 200 ( ? ) people there. HIV/AIDS was mentioned at the rally, but I don't think our community is paying much attentionout of sight, out of mind, I guess. This is very dangerous as 57% of all new HIV infections in the United States is still from the MSM and/or gay male community.
"4. Racism and homophobia; hope for greater understanding and collaboration: The LGBT struggle is a civil-rights struggle. Julian Bond, board chair of the NAACP, stated that"GLBT rights are civil rights; there are no 'special rights' in America. Everyone has rightsor should haveand I am happy to join in this battle for justice and fairness." It was amazing to hear that he supports the LGBT fight for civil rights and he considers it a civil-rights battle. I hope he and other leaders will begin to make important inroads with the African-American community to better understand any discrimination is still discrimination and all communities begin to build bridges."
Jean Leigh, owner of the Leigh Gallery: "I went to a "March on Washington" many years ago, so I do understand the mentality and attempt for hope and resultsbut there has never been a "March" that has had any impact on thegovernment. It just puts revenue in the pockets of businesses around the mallthat's about it."
Mike Bauer, political activist: "Roger [ Simon, Bauer's partner ] and I watched the rally on C-SPAN on Sunday, and I was struck by the large numbers of LGBT youth both attending the rally and speaking. Listening to the articulateness and passion of the LGBT youth who spoke at the Rally was a thrill for both of usgiving us great reassurance that there is a whole new generation arising within the LGBT community who are going to push hard and differently to advance LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS issues in this country. Even through the medium of television, I could feel all this intense, incredible grassroots energy that I fully expect will re-energize our community's political battle for equal rights in this country."
Rhett Lindsay, Test Positive Aware Network associate director of communications and special events: "I didn't attend the march in Washington, but I feel it made an impact large enough to be recognized globally. I believe the timing of this march, in conjunction with President Obama's presence at HRC's national gala, was important and significant to the direction of our voice, and was able to help leaders ( on local and national levels ) understand the many gaps in civil rights and opportunities that affect our community. It's going to take more than one national march, more than one presidential speech, more support, more patience and more time to gain the freedoms we are owed; and it's up to us as a community to continue this fight every day."
Nik Maciejewski, Join the Impact Chicago: "The National Equality March in Washington, D.C., was the culmination of efforts within a newly revived LGBT community with thousands of new activists surfacing since the beginning of the new year. The event kicked off a call to the LGBT community to organize locally in each of the 435 congressional districts in the United States, and has brought inspiration to organizers and activists that is already visible. This event will not be remembered as merely a march, but a call to action that changed the dynamic of our movement for full federal rights. There will be no more waiting. We will win this fight.
Thank you to every single person who organized for or spread word about the march. The 250,000 people who attended could not have been there without your help."
Art Johnston, activist/entrepreneur: "I saw our brighter future that weekend as waves of impatient activists took over the streets of our capital city. Mostly younggay and straightthey confirmed again that LGBT rights are the civil=rights cause of our time and they will not be left out or ignored. Much praise to them; to David Mixner, who called for the march; and to Cleve Jones, who brought it to reality."
Michael Carr, Log Cabin Republicans: I wasn't in D.C. for the March, nor was I at the HRC Gala.
I hope that the march was not an exercise in futility. I'd rather see and read about young people contacting their legislators, and convincing their family and neighbors to do the same. What will really change the hearts and minds of legislators is tangible pro-marriage equality communication from their constituents. The march should be considered a step towards mobilizing young people to get more active in politics, making phone calls and convincing others to do so is not glamorous but it is vital.
The president's promises to our community during his speech at the HRC gala were already made during his campaign. I hope to see President Obama make good on his promises; until then, his position of support for our community amounts to frustrating rhetoric. If the president is fully committed to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," then his first order of business should be to stop fighting the Log Cabin Republican lawsuit seeking to overturn that terribly harmful act.
Vernita Gray, activist: I could not think of a better way to kick off my next 40 years of activism than to head off to the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., with thousands of LGBT peole who demanded that our days of second-class citizenship have to end and that we should be treated with all the dignity and respect due ri us as humans first, and as citizens of the United States.
Both marriage equality and the right to serve in the military are my rights as a taxpaying citizen, and I headed to Washington to have my voice heard. On Oct. 9 at a local gay bar I met a couple of African immigrants who reminded me of how fortunate we are in this country. I shared the story of Sakia Gunn, a Black 15-year-old who was brutally murdered because of her sexual orientation. On Saturday, Oct. 10, I headed over to Busboys and Poets restaurant to hear Cleve Jones and Sherry Wolf give some history of or striving for rights in America. Then, we proceded over to the Convention Center to a little demonstration to remind the president, "Obama, Obama, let momma marry momma" and, of course, "What do we want? Equality. When do we want it? NOW!"
As the well-dressed LGBT folks headed into the dinner, we not-so-well-dressed individuals chanted our wants for equality. It was lovely to see both ends of the spectrum of our communitythose in black tie and those in black jeans. Sunday, the day of the march, was just awesome. The diversity the numbers of youth and the colors of the rainbow that shone in the sky above us just brought tears to my eyes. The '60s poem said the revolution would not be televised, but after a while exhaustion set in and we headed back to the condo to watch some great speeches on C-SPAN. ... Dustin Lance Black was very inspirational in his call to come out on that lovely Sunday. What a great way for us all to come out together in our demand for equal rights! Power to the people!
T.J. Williams, activist: One of the things that I have been concerned about is the lack of progressive voices of faith in these events. Conservatives have always used Christian voices to take away rights while with in the queer community have fought hard to muffle those voices. While doing so, middle America is not listening to our cry for justice and equality.
I applaud Cleve Jones for being there to work with myself, Pastor Will Moore of Las Vegas, Rev. Irene Monroe and the Gaylin Haggler of Plymouth Congregational Church.
We planed the official service for the march that was held at 8 a.m. with the hopes of speaking on LGBT issues. We did this with a unified voiceUCC, Moorlight Presbyterian, Jewish and Muslim. Rev. Mike Schuenem and many others helped us hold this service, not just becasue we believe that we just should but because we really believe that voices of faith really belong in the fight for justice.
Jerry Pritikin, historian/activist :A not-so-funny thing happened on our way to D.C.!
Had my preparations for the March on Washington gone as planed, this would of been a mini-journal of that journey. My adult life has been like a ongoing gay soap opera, and often documented by my traveling companion, my camera. Over 30 years ago, my photograph of Harvey Milk, taken at an impromptu San Francisco March, on June 7, 1977, became a footnote in gay history and introduced Milk nationally, five months before he was elected as the country's first openly gay male politician, via the Associated Press. I always regretted not going to the gay march on Washington D.C. in 1979. This time, I made up my mind; I would be in Washington for the National Equality NOW March.
A few months ago, I hooked up with the local chapter of "Join the Impact Chicago" ( JTIC ) group. And since that time, we had weekly meetings to plan our participation in the National Equality March in Washington. It started with the "An evening with Cleve Jones" event. Cleve was inspirational, as he told the audience filled with mostly young gays, the reasons why we should make the pilgrimage to D.C. in October. At our meetings, we talked about having a single bus take us there, but as the time grew nearer, the local JTIC organizers had filled four busloads with over 250 Chicago-area pilgrims.
On Saturday ( Oct. 10 ) , the video crew came to my apartment. We made some predictions, and they made a video of me walking out my apartment door, and on our way to history in the making. We then met behind the Art Institute, and started boarding the buses at 6:30 p.m. It was a jovial moodrainbow flags, signs and non-stop smiles once we started our journey. We made it to what was to be our first pit stop in Genoa, Ohi at exactly 1 minute after midnight. However, it was announced that the bus was having transmission problemsand the next five and a half hours were spent in a Hardee's food mall before help would arrive. But by then, it was too late to get us to D.C.in time for the march.
So, we returned to Chicagoand to add insult to injury, our signs could not be taken out of the broken bus' storage area, and were not available for those who took part in the Daily Plaza rally when we arrived back in Chicago. So like the best-made plans of mice and men, our effort to be part of this historic event did not take place. Disappointed, yes! However, I'm thankful that the three other buses, and thousands and thousands of gays, made it in personand I was able to see the historic great march on C-SPAN!