On Oct. 14, 1979, over 100,000 people (including this author) took part in the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Since then, LGBT people and our allies marched on Washington in 1987, 1993, 2000 and 2009. Though little was achieved as a result, the LGBT Marches on Washington united our community and brought attention to important issues, such as AIDS — the 1987 March was the first time the Quilt was exhibited — queers in the military and marriage equality. Though the victory of marriage equality in 2015 led many to believe that activism was no longer necessary, the election of Donald Trump reminded us that there is still much work to be done.
The Equality March for Unity & Pride will be the first major March for LGBT rights since Trump became president. David Bruinooge announced the March on Facebook after watching the Women’s March on Jan. 21. “I was watching the events unfold on TV, and I was very proud and inspired by all the strong women in our country who were kind of taking this to the street and getting their voices heard,” Bruinooge told the Washington Blade. “And in the back of my mind, as an openly gay man, I thought the gay community should be doing something like this to follow up the momentum.” The March will be held on June 11, on the weekend Capital Pride holds its annual events, and organized in conjunction with Capital Pride Alliance. In addition to the main March, there will be 40 or so “sister marches” across the U.S. and elsewhere.
“We urge all supporters, friends, and family to descend on DC for the Pride 2017 weekend to make sure our voices are heard,” Bruinooge’s Facebook post read. “The Equality March for Unity & Pride is a grassroots movement which will mobilize the diverse LGBTQ+ communities to peacefully and clearly address concerns about the current political landscapes and how it is contributing to the persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals. … We will use the Equality March, and sister events across the country, to give voice to our concerns, and to support, uplift, and bring attention to those in our communities who are targeted due to immigration status, ethnicity, religion, skin color, gender, and disability.”
The Equality March for Unity & Pride is part of a wider Resistance movement organized to oppose the Trump administration. In Los Angeles, Calif. organizers converted the annual Christopher West Pride Parade into an anti-Trump, anti-right-wing #ResistMarch. “Parades are for progress,” said Brian Pendleton, one of the organizers. “This year, we need a human rights march, something bigger and more meaningful. People want to make a stand and be louder this year because they’re nervous that their rights are going to be rolled back.”
In New York City, members of ACT UP, Gays Against Guns and the new anti-Trump group Rise and Resist demanded that Heritage of Pride give the Resistance a prominent space at the NYC Pride March. Heritage of Pride agreed, placing the Resistance at the front of the March. “These aren’t normal times and Heritage of Pride couldn’t possibly just go ahead and use their normal template,” said Ken Kidd, an ACT UP veteran who led the push. “Starting with his choosing Mike Pence as his running mate, everything Trump has done so far has negatively targeted our LGBT community in one way or another. His policies on transgender people, health care, seniors, people of color, children are all horrible and it’s up to us to do something about this.”
Meanwhile, organizers for the Equality March for Unity & Pride are moving along, though a bit too slowly for my taste. With only a month to go before the scheduled date, organizers finally named a diverse group of national co-chairs and created a website, equalitymarch2017.com. The exact route of the March is still being worked out with city officials, though it is agreed that the end Rally will be at the National Mall. Organizers partnered with Skedaddle and with Bus.com for low-cost transportation to the March. Speakers and entertainers have not been announced, either for the National March or for any of the sister marches. And publicity has been mostly non-existent. In any case, we shall keep our collective fingers crossed, hoping that the Equality March for Unity & Pride will be a big success. We shall see.