Tens of thousands of protesters came together at a rally Sunday afternoon following a march through the streets of Washington DC. The event, known as the National Equality March, was an enormous gathering of support for equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) citizens in the country. While the demand for “equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states,” seems reasonable enough, the matter of whether LGBT citizens should be granted equal rights under the law has been a huge debate in recent years. Two major points of protest are, first, for the government to put an end to the don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT) policy, which has resulted in hundreds of soldiers being discharged from the military, and, second, to put an end to The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which gives states the right to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and forbids federal marriage rights from being granted to any same-sex couples, regardless of their state laws. Other issues such as legal discrimination, legal physical protection, equitable healthcare, and immigration policies were also discussed at the rally.
Another topic brought up throughout the event was the important role of the youth in the movement, both in the protection of young LGBT teenagers and in the involvement of young people in the fight for equality. A CNN poll conducted in May 2009 showed that 58% of Americans age 18-34, 42% age 35-49, and 41% age 50-64 support legalizing same-sex marriage, while only 24% of Americans aged 65 and over support it. This same “generational gap”, as it’s been called, has continually come up in the news and in polls, leading many pro-rights activists to believe it is only a matter of time before full legal equality is achieved.
Amnesty International maintained a presence at the event from start to finish, showing our support for the expansion of legal equality to all American citizens. The crowd was surprisingly diverse, including many heterosexual allies who showed support either as part of the march or from the sidelines. The attendees were obviously passionate about t heir demands. There was a feeling of positive energy as people marched together, chanting and singing rhymes such as “Hey, Obama, let mama marry mama.”
President Obama, who had addressed the Human Rights Campaign the previous evening, has stated that he seeks an end to both DOMA and DADT, but has consistently evaded giving a specific timetable on when to accomplish these changes. The rally also hosted a wide range of speakers, including political office holders, high school students, mothers, and celebrities.
This post was written by Andrew Carter.