It was the largest rally in nearly a decade and was made up of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates of equal rights. These marchers banded together to protest the lack of progress in the area of gay rights, an area that Obama promised to pay special attention to during his presidency. It has been almost a year that Obama has been in the office, and many supporters feel that nothing has been accomplished.
“As an individual who vigorously supports gay rights, I am extremely upset that Obama has not felt the need to address gay rights thus far in his presidency, seeing as how he has been in office for what? Nine months?” said sophomore Rachel Hoovler about Obama’s failure to follow through with policies.
Some gay rights advocates are saying that Americans have to be patient as Obama works on other pressing issues of the nation, such as the economy and healthcare. But the new generation of advocates, mostly people in their 20s and 30s who have been affected by Proposition 8 (the law that repealed the right for same-sex marriage in California) are tired of waiting. Instead they took to the streets.
On the night previous to the march, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights sponsorship group in the U.S., hosted a black-tie gala at which President Obama made a speech. The speech was interesting in that he was able to work up a lot of support by the crowd without saying anything new or definite.
The president re-stated his commitment to ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has caused so much harm to gay men serving in the military and expounded that his commitment to gay rights was a strong as ever.
Yet Obama failed to lay out a timetable for getting a ban on discrimination of gays in the military, and he did not make any promises to fight for the institution of same-sex marriage. Perhaps most importantly in light of the events of the following morning, Obama did not even mention the march that was going to happen a few hours later.
This, of course, received commentary at the march, like when musician Billie Myers proclaimed, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t like your speech,” to an audience of thousands on the Capital lawns.
Ironically, the Human Rights Campaign had virtually no involvement in the march, despite having organized the last gay rights march in Washington in 2000. The president of the Human Rights Campaign has urged the young advocates to stay positive and to give Obama time. He could potentially be in office for seven more years, during which the issue of gay rights could take the forefront.
Most of the marchers are supportive of Obama, but feel that he has not yet made good on his promises that he made to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Having just recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, there was a general sentiment among the advocates that he should do something to truly earn it.
Was the march a success? The march organizers and participants certainly felt like it was. With an estimated 150,000 people in attendance, the marchers feel like this show of support put a certain amount of pressure on the Obama administration. Those in opposition to the march in gay political circles on the other hand, feel that it was hastily planned and executed, and the only thing that was put pressure on was the grass.
“Personally, I feel like whenever people get together to show support for a cause that it’s a good thing. Some sort of action is better than no action at all,” said Hoovler.