Constance McMillen, Lt. Dan Choi and
Judy Shepard will share grand marshaling responsibilities in Sunday's
City gay pride parade.
McMillen is the eighteen-year-old
lesbian student who
sued her Mississippi school district after officials canceled the
annual prom dance rather than allow her to attend with her
“I'll never get my senior year back,”
she told USA Today. “But the experiences that I have had
because of this have really made it a lot easier. It really helped
One of those experiences came Tuesday
when she was invited to a
gay pride reception at the White House hosted by President Barack
McMilen said she was “really honored
and touched” to be asked to take part in the parade.
Lt. Dan Choi has become the leading
voice of opposition to the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”
policy that bans gay service members from revealing their
sexuality. An estimated 13,000 gay and lesbian troops have been
fired under the 1993 law.
Choi twice protested the policy by
chaining himself to the White House gate. Park
police cut down the West Point graduate and arrested him after he
refused to step down.
Judy Shepard went from small-town
mother to gay activist after her twenty-one-year-old son Matthew
Shepard was viciously murdered in 1998 by two men he met in a gay
bar. The University of Wyoming student was beaten and left to die
shackled to a post along a rural road near Laramie.
She spent much of the last decade
lobbying for the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Prevention
Act that adds disability, gender and sexual orientation to the list
of federal hate crime protections. Obama
signed the bill into law last October.
With passage of the bill, Shepard has
evolved from the single issue of fighting against gay hate to a
full-time gay rights activist.
“As parents of gay children we see
what society has done to us and to them,” Shepard told NPR host
Neal Conan. “We somehow, either intentionally or unintentionally
perhaps, indoctrinate everyone to think that being gay is wrong. It
isn't wrong, it's just who you are. It's the way you were born.
Nothing about that makes our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender
children different than any other children, except who they love.
And at the end of the day, does that really matter to anybody? It's
their life, it's who they are. And to try and convince them that
they are wrong only damages them irreparably. And suicide is often
the tragic result of that.”
A half-million people are expected
Sunday as New York City's parade steps off at 36th Street and Fifth
Avenue to wend its way to the Stonewall Inn, site of the June 1969
riots that sparked the modern gay rights movement.