Over the weekend, you probably heard about tens of thousands of people standing up for LGBT rights at the Equality March in Washington, DC. It got some decent coverage, mostly on C-SPAN, but for the most part, the MSM really missed the scene. They missed the personal stories attached to this event. Our own Laura Gilbert was there to speak with the protesters.
The march coincided with President Obama's speech to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). In his speech, President Obama reiterated campaign promises to end discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace, in the military, and in marriage. These promises were made absent any timelines, a fact that did not escape the protesters.
David Mixner, Author and Democratic strategist, expressed the frustration shared amongst many gay rights advocates: "When people tell me to be patient, when people tell me 'Oh Lord, not now,' all I can think about is how many more tears should be shed so that some politicians in a back room can figure out when it's convenient to join us and to fight for our freedom?"
Cindy, marching with her wife Gillian and son Jack, age 3, traveled from Cincinnati, OH for the march. "We are tired of not being represented properly. We want to be part of the visibility of the movement." Cindy is pregnant and due in Novemeber. "Even though we consider ourselves to be married, we are unable to legally wed. In Ohio, we don't have dual adoption and as a result, the non-birth parent has no rights." The New York Times found that, in a best case scenario, a gay couple with two children will pay an extra $41,196.00 simply because they are not a legally married couple. "Our ability to marry has no impact on those who oppose it. But the fact that we cannot marry affects us everyday."
Billie Tadros, seen in the picture above embracing fellow Susquehanna University student Katie Falvo, said "I'd like to have the option to marry the woman I love one day. We're not interested in settling for anything less." Billie "came to be a part of history and work towards equality."
This fight, "is definitively a process, not a one day thing" Billie's girlfriend, Katie, added with a laugh.
Jeremy Griffin, from Ogunquit, ME said, "I am so far from marriage right now. But I'd like to think it will be there for me when I'm ready. I know so many couples who have been together forever and they just don't have the same rights available to them." Jeremy had questioned traveling to DC for this event, seeing as Maine is facing its own version of Prop 8 right now. He decided he would attend this event to bring visibility to Question 1 in Maine and the Protect Maine Equality campaign (this campaign was a featured topic of discussion at the Netroots Nation panel 'From Prop 8 to Full Equality in all 50 States'). Question 1 is up for a vote on November 3rd. If the Protect Maine Equality campaign can pull out a victory here, it would be the first time marriage equality has won at the ballot.
Cynthia Nixon, actress from Sex and the City, hammered the point home:
“Our right to marry is of paramount importance, whether you as an individual gay person listening to me right now, want to get married now or ever. It is important because when a country has different laws for different categories of people, it sends its population a message that the different group of people with lesser rights are somehow inferior and less deserving of respect, and are, in fact, not wholly human. And that message is heard loud and clear by the worst elements in our society. And it instructs them that if they are looking for someone to bully, or beat, or even kill; if they are looking for someone vulnerable to prey upon, gay people are a ready target.
Marriage equality was not the only subject on people's minds this weekend. Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) was also prominently featured. Michael Bedwell, of San Francisco, told us that he came to the event in part to remind and inform younger people about his hero and friend, Leonard Matlovich (Seen on the cover of Time magazine in the picture below), a pioneer in the gay rights movement. "It empowers the LGBT community, especially the youth, to know their forebears. Public schools don't teach about these figures."
Lt. Dan Choi, a Unites States Army combat veteran who served in Iraq and the founder of KnightsOut, wasn't born when Leonard first fought the ban on gays in the military. "I hope people understand and decide what they're going to do if Obama is still making promises with no action in 6 months... Until we disrupt their lives and give them motivation to act, I sadly fear the situation is not going to change. It doesn't bode well when nothing is happening, in a situation in which we have such a liberal president, and Democrats have control of both houses of Congress."
The calls for action were partnered with a call to come out as well. Christine McIntire, a law student from Cleveland, OH, said, "I want to encourage people to be brave and come out to their families. Change starts at home." Bruce Babson, a member of the Board of Directors at the HRC, echoed that sentiment in his speech, "Our friends, family and coworkers need to know that when they vote for these bigoted politicians, they vote against us."
Mary Ann Bell, of Virginia said that, "We must all have courage and face what diversity really means. And that means orientation; it means culture; it means race." Mary Anne was one of the seven women to fast only on water for 37 days in front of the Illinois State House to support the ratification of the Equal Right Amendment in 1972. She told us that she fasted "to make the point, to witness, that equal rights should be for everyone. And here we are 25 years later, still fighting."
This sentiment was also expressed by Tanner Efinger, founder of Postcards to the President. "We are, all of us, an unrepresented, motley crew of underdogs, who have gathered in struggle from every class, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and background to say that we are done with waiting. And while there is a certain pace to change the we are told we must abide by, our children are on the streets, our lovers are in early graves and our family are in hospital beds all by themselves and they don't have time to wait for politicians."
-Written by Will Urquhart, reported by Laura Gilbert
More pictures available at Sum of Change