50th Anniversary of The March Puts LGBT Issues at Forefront
The LGBT community had a strong presence during the 50th Anniversary March on Washington where tens of thousands took to DC to celebrate MLK’s historic March and to say the fight for civil rights is not over.
Speakers of all walks of life, each fighting for multiple social issues, gathered on the steps of Lincoln Memorial to speak to a diverse crowd of spectators about how far the different communities had come and how much more there is left to do to establish an equal country.
Donna Payne, associate director of field outreach for the Human Rights Campaign, took the podium to announce her own feelings as an African-American lesbian representing HRC.
“I’m proud because the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the African-American community are working together towards justice for all. There have been many attempts to tell you that we cannot get along because we are so different,” said Payne. “Don’t believe in the hype. I am part of the fabric that weaves our destinies together.”
Attorney General Eric Holder was another speaker at Saturday’s event. Holder said he wouldn’t have been able to hold his current position if it wasn’t for the bravery of the 1963 marchers.
“As we gather today, 50 years later, their march is now our march and it must go on,” Holder said. “And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian-Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this great country who still earn for equality, opportunity and fair treatment.”
The Rev. MacArthur Flournoy directs faith partnerships and mobilizing at the Human Rights Campaign. He said the fight for human rights and civil rights were linked by the commitment to justice. ”LGBT equality, in our minds, is consistent with many other justice issues, so it’s important that we’re present,” he said.
John Becker, is an LGBT activist, writer, and blogger who was in attendance with his husband, Michael. The couple was photographed outside the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013 after the court struck down the provision denying benefits to legally married gay couples in what became iconic images.
Becker has worked on discovering anti-gay extremists which included going undercover to the Bachmann’s clinic in Minnesota with cameras and exposing anti-gay therapy.
“We believe in standing up for civil rights for all Americans,” Becker said. “We believe that just like in 1963, in 2013 civil rights are still under attack.”
Becker also said the he believes LGBT rights along with voting rights and immigration are some of the major civil rights battles of our time.
“I think the battle for LGBT equality plays a central role in the greater civil rights movement,” Becker said.
People came from across the country to take part in Saturday’s movement including New Jersey residents Stuart and Lance Chen-Hayes and their son Kalani. For the married gay couple, the event was a way to speak out against multiple issues not just LGBT rights. Wearing an “I love my Dads” shirt, Kalani held a sign saying “Money for education, not wars” while his parents challenged issues such as healthcare, marriage equality and anti-violence.
The couple, who have been together for 19 years, have gone through multiple processes to get their marriage recognized. With an original ceremony in Chicago 17 years ago, they have gone through domestic partnership, civil unions and finally a legalized marriage ceremony in New York two years ago.
“Every time that something has come along we try to protect our family,” Stuart Chen-Hayes said. “We’re waiting now in New Jersey to get full federal rights.”
Karen Elliott of Baltimore was in attendance with the American Ethical Union. Elliott said she began fighting for civil rights in the sixties and continues her work as an ethical humanist.
“Civil rights are civil rights regardless of who you are,” Elliot said. “We fight for LGBT rights just like we fight for rights based on the color of your skin.”
Zenen Jaimes-Perez is a Texas native and recent Georgetown graduate. As a member with both the Latino GLBT History Project (LHP) and Advocates for Youth, Jaimes-Perez was excited to take part of such a large movement for civil rights.
“I came up here to support the march specifically for LGBT rights and how it intersects with a lot of the issues that Martin Luther King talked about,” Jaimes-Perez said. “With Bayard Rustin organizing the 1963 march it’s especially important to identify the people of color within the LGBT movement which is something that has always been lacking in our mainstream.”
“Our church was integrated in the 40′s here in DC and we were at the front of the march 50 years ago with a delegation of a thousand Unitarians-Universalists but we know the work is not done,” Rion Starr said.
“MLK said that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” Rion Starr added. “The beloved community is about justice for queers and justice for people of color, and justice for queer people of color. All of these struggles are interconnected.”
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