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October 23, 2009
Throngs fill the nation’s capital to demand equality
Washington, D.C.--Blazing sunlight and an autumn heat greeted the thousands of LGBT advocates, activists and protesters that descended upon the nation’s capital for the National Equality March on Sunday, October 11.
Exactly how many thousands there were, however, is a matter of debate. The National Park Service no longer does crowd estimates in Washington, D.C., and media figures ranged from “thousands” to the Advocate’s perhaps overly optimistic 200,000. Organizers estimated 150,000 attendees.
While most media outlets went with “tens of thousands,” the numbers, whatever they really were, could only tell a fraction of the story.
The march itself stopped traffic for hours, and over an hour after organizers began the speeches in front of the Capitol, marchers were still heading east on Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
Glancing towards the Capitol dome from the National Archives at 7th Street NW and Pennsylvania Ave. at 1 pm showed nothing but a solid river stretching into the distance, and a glance back the way they had come offered nearly the same view. By 3:30 pm, the flow had slackened, but that mighty river was still a powerful stream.
Activists of every age and gender, from across the country, filled the west lawn of the Capitol and much of the area around its reflecting pool, illustrating the heterogeneity of the LGBT community. White, black, Latino, Asian, male, female and everywhere in between were represented, some carrying signs like “Gender is overrated!” or Tshirts reading “I survived the Bush administration.”
Contingents of LGBT veterans and servicemembers were followed by a large group of Socialists, drumming on plastic pails and carrying placards reading “Out, proud and fighting for LGBT liberation.”
Meanwhile, on the stage were speakers ranging from Cleve Jones to Cynthia Nixon, Judy Shepard to Lady Gaga.
Gaga’s poker face evaporated when facing the crowd; a grin split her face from ear to ear, and she was met with roars of approval when she said, “I refuse to accept any misogynistic and homophobic behavior in music, lyrics, or actions in the music industry.”
“I am so very honored to have this platform here today,” she noted.
Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, established the LGBT rights movement as part of the larger civil rights movement, of which he has been a part for decades.
“Black people of all should not oppose equality, and that is what marriage is all about,” Bond said. “We have a lot of real and serious problems in this country, and same-sex marriage is not one of them.”
His pro-gay sentiments have put him at odds with some African American clergy over the last few years. Many ministers have sided with white evangelical Christians in fighting against legislative and social gains by LGBT people.
Many marchers and some speakers took issue with President Barack Obama, who spoke the night before at the Human Rights Campaign’s national banquet.
At the dinner, Obama pledged to end the military’s ban on openly gay personnel and expressed his continued support for LGBT equality, but those at the march were dismayed at the simple repetition of campaign promises without actually saying when he would do those things.
Many pundits and advocates describe the march as a sort of Stonewall 2.0, using computer jargon to refer to the youth of many of the participants.
However, the computer references might also point to the impatience of the internet generation; many are accusing Obama of betraying his campaign promises to the LGBT community, althought he has been in office for less than nine months.
“I take him at his word,” said Gavin Creel, star of the Broadway musical Hair. “This is just the beginning.”
Creel and the rest of the cast let a matinee show go dark to attend the march, and perform songs from the musical.
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