Calling for an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and equality in marriage, thousands of gay rights supporters marched by the White House and on to the Capitol to rally.
Sunday’s National Equality March coincided with National Coming Out Day, and came a day after President Obama delivered a supportive speech to the nation’s largest gay rights group. A number of activists and supporters addressed the crowd. The message, organizers of the rally said, was for federal action to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. “Obama, I know you are listening,” pop star Lady Gaga told the crowd, before shouting, “Are you listening We will continue to push you and your administration to bring your words of promise to a reality.” Obama was praised for his remarks to the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday, where he said he has urged Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act. But Obama has also been criticized by gay rights activists who say he has put those issues — and the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from openly serving in the military — on the back burner. The marchers passed near the White House on the way to the Capitol, and stopped briefly to chant, asking Obama for his support. At the Capitol, the participants spilled from the western front of the building, where a podium was set up, onto Pennsylvania Avenue. An official crowd estimate was not available.
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Christine Quinn, the first openly gay speaker of the New York City Council, said she had one request for lawmakers at all levels across the country. “Look me in the eye and tell me I am less of a person than you are,” she said. “Look me in the eye and tell me my family is worth less than yours. Look me in the eye and tell me I am not an American. Well you know what, not one person in any of those places can do that, not one of them.” She continued: “So what we’re here about today is to start telling the truth and to force the lawmakers from coast to coast and in the nation’s capital to make our law books tell the truth.” Although Obama’s speech Saturday was supportive of changes in the law to reflect equal rights in marriage and service to the military for homosexuals, given a full plate of other polemic issues at home and abroad facing the administration, it remains unclear how quickly the issues at the center of Sunday’s march will be addressed. Watch Obama vow to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” Even members of the president’s own party are split. “I’ve said in the past I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, told CNN’s John King, referring to the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. “We can move forward on a lot of measures, but I’m not sure there’s the support yet for that.”
Actress Cynthia Nixon, of “Sex in the City” fame, told the crowd, “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.” A small number of counter-protesters gathered at the beginning of the march.