A historic day for the LGBT civil rights movement as equality marches and rallies are held in over 115 citiesBottom Highlights, Commentary, Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest, Latest Issue Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
This past Sunday, June 11, was indeed a historic day for the LGBT civil rights movement, as not only did thousands march on our nation’s capital Washington, D.C., but in over 116 cities across the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Spain and others.
There have now been six LGBT marches on Washington with about 60,000 attending the first in 1979, and 1987 being the biggest with over 800,000 people including the first display of the entire AIDS quilt on the National Mall. I have had the honor of serving on all six national organizing committees, including being elected as a national co-chair for three of them.
The leadership of this 2017 March on Washington was the most diverse ever of any of the past marches. That was reflected with the official lead banner starting the 2017 March, which was carried by almost all people of color activists.
The idea for the march came from David Bruinooge of New York who issued the “call” for a 2017 March on Washington during the weekend of the “Women’s March.” Bruinooge put the call on his Facebook page and through the help of social media the rest, as they say is history.
Among major financial sponsors of this year’s March were Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, but this was most definitely a grass roots effort organized with only three of the 12 member national executive committee being from the West Coast: Portland, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Part of the march and rally was focused on the first anniversary of the Orlando massacre. One of the speakers was Answai Bennet, who was shot and wounded in the Pulse nightclub. Before that night Bennet said, he had been quiet about his sexual orientation, but now he has become an activist and acknowledges that it took a bullet and a long scar covering a titanium rod in his leg, for him to overcome his past unease about living openly.
The 2017 March for Equality passed the White House with the loud chanting of “Love not hate, makes America Great” by the massive crowd of marchers. There was a solid representation from the transgender community in the march and on the rally stage. LGTBQ youth, families and allies were also represented in great numbers.
The Native American community opened the rally with a blessing of the land and then I had the honor of being the first speaker and told the huge crowd that we were there as “proud Americans” to send a message to the nation that we were “never going back into the closet.” It was also my privilege and honor to present a salute to our LGBT veterans and active military and I introduced representatives from the four military branches of service which included our very own Sgt. Bob Lehman, representing the Marine Corps and former San Diegan Ben Gomez representing the U.S. Navy; they all received thunderous ovations.
Many San Diegans attended the March on Washington including long-time AIDS-HIV advocate Terry Cunningham, gay activist and fundraiser Big Mike Phillips and Sherman Mendoza, owner of the Caliph bar.
My week-long stay in Washington included countless meetings and events and it was especially great to see and talk with long-time friend Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force and former Human Rights Fund H.R.C. Director Elizabeth Birch. What I got from my many political and civil rights meetings with our leaders and organizations was that many of the current and future policies of the Trump administration are being aimed at our LGBT community, and that this administration is most definitely in partnership with the right wing establishment and religious right.
There is also almost a political civil war going on with the Democratic Party between the Bernie Sanders supporters and the moderate progressive wing of the party. There seems to me to be a struggle going on within our own LGBT equality movement between our established LGBT organizations and an emerging very militant radical left wing of trans, black and youth activists. A militant group of three LGBTQ activists actually halted the 42nd annual Capital Pride parade for almost an hour on Saturday by blocking the parade route.
I was one of the grand marshals of this parade along with LGBT Icons Edie Windsor, Jim Obergefell and Mandy Carter and we “old folk” certainly boiled in our convertible cars with heat hitting the high 90s. I was also proud to see that San Diego had a great turnout for our city’s equality march.
While I don’t see myself taking a major national leadership role for the “Stonewall 50” celebration in New York in 2019, I will be involved with one of the weekend’s major exciting events. (I was an elected national co-chair of “Stonewall 25,” but I was younger and healthier then.)
My message to you all is that the success of our continuing LGBT civil rights movement is to remain both in the streets and in the suites of political power.
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