In the words of Barney
Frank it was an enormous “emotional release” Sunday as
thousands of gay rights activist took to the streets of Washington
D.C. to press lawmakers to act on gay rights legislation.
The marchers were squarely aiming for
President Barack Obama, who renewed his promise to end the military's
ban on open gay service in a speech to 3,000 gay activists at
Saturday's Human Rights Campaign (HRC) fundraiser in Washington.
But the crowd on Sunday was clearly
unimpressed with the president's latest offering that spelled out
nothing new and offered few specifics.
“I'm sorry, but I didn't like your
speech,” Billie Myers, a musician, told a cheering crowd, The
New York Times reported.
“I'm absolutely here to encourage
President Obama to live up to his promises from the campaign for my
family's equality,” Julie Marosky-Thacker, a protester from North
Carolina, told the AP.
Marchers were younger – reported to
be in their 20s and 30s – than the politically connected
$500-a-plate gay activist, who, collectively, gave Obama a standing
ovation Saturday. They're also less patient, more vocal and
unwilling to give the president the benefit of the doubt.
“I think this march represents the
passing of the torch,” Corey Johnson, political commentator for the
gay blog Towleroad.com,
told the paper. “The points of power are no longer in the halls of
Washington or larger metropolitan areas. It's decentralized now.
You have young activists and gay people from all walks of life
converging on Washington not because a national organization told
them to, but because they feel the time is now.”
There were not official estimates of
the size of the crowd. Unofficial estimates ranged from 20,000 all
the way up to 100,000.
Several celebrity gay rights activists
spoke at the demonstration.
“We are all Americans. We are all
equal Americans, gay, straight or whatever,” Judy Shepard, the
mother of Matthew Shepard, told the crowd. Judy Shepard has lobbied
Congress for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill since her son was
murdered in 1988 for being gay.
“We are gathered here today from all
over the U.S., and back home many of us are deeply embroiled in the
particular local battles that we are fighting, but today is a
national rally and when we walk away from here tonight, we need to
walk away with a common national resolve,” openly lesbian actress
Cynthia Nixon told the crowd.
Also at the march was Lt. Dan Choi, a
gay Iraq war veteran who is fighting an Army discharge initiated
after he acknowledged his sexuality on national television.
“I marched for many different things
in the Army. We fought for many things,” Choi told the AP. “But
when there are people who are discriminated against in our country,
it is our responsibility to step up for them.”