LGBT Rally Draws Tiny Crowd in D.C.

With no major backing, local iteration of worldwide event for civil rights brings few to the Capitol, though speakers strike optimistic tone

By John Riley
Published on April 21, 2012, 2:07pm | Comments

Despite low attendance, participants in today's rally for LGBT civil rights – part of the Let's Reach One Million People LGBTQIA Equality Campaign – said their overall message remains important and that people must be vigilant in continuing the fight until full equality is reached.

About 20 people showed up to the D.C. rally – just one of today's 30 scheduled events around the world – calling for civil rights for members of the LGBT community. Among the other cities expected to see similar April 21 actions were New York City, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Marquette, Mich., and Jackson, Miss., as well as cities in Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

The rally was relatively decentralized and received little, if any, support from prominent LGBT groups or organizations. No prominent LGBT activists from the D.C. area were spotted at the rally.

According to the website for the march, organizers at all 30 demonstrations were expected to begin their events at noon, local time, on April 21. In D.C., that initially meant a rally with speakers at 10:45 a.m. adjacent the Capitol, followed by a march at 1 p.m. Today's event, however, began later than planned with the first speaker, Jonathan Wolfman, the Maryland-based editor of castlegayguide.com, taking the stage around 12:15 p.m. No march followed.

"This effort is the essential civil rights mandate of this era," said Wolfman, who identified himself as a straight ally and related the importance of LGBT equality to the traditions of his Jewish faith. "Thorough-going legal equality for all citizens, as I read it, is a demand of my tradition. It is a demand of the only true American exceptionalism, the ethical weight of our Bill of Rights, that brief, brilliant document, which informs every thought I have about civil rights and liberties."

Wolfman primarily focused on the issue of marriage equality, now District law for nearly two years and most recently passed into law in Maryland in March, set to take effect in 2013.

Speaker Lamel Clark, a gay man, told the small crowd of his own story of coming out and struggling against prejudice. Clark said he wants his relationship to be recognized and to be seen as an equal citizen.

"After all, marriage is about love, not sex, right?" Clark asked.

Chief organizer Curtis Sledge told the crowd that it was time to "step up to the plate" to demand equality for members of different sexual orientations and identities. He told LGBT attendees to "stand tall with your head held high."

Sledge, in a binational relationship, told attendees he will be moving abroad in a few weeks to be with his partner, who lives in the Philippines and who has been denied the chance to immigrate to the United States.

"Regardless of the size of the crowd, the message is we still need to seek equality," Sledge said following the rally. "Right now is our time."