The National Equality March saw tens of thousands of homosexual activists flood Pennsylvania Avenue and cover the lawn of the Capitol, denouncing legislation that many participants said didn't reflect policies of "love."
"This is my fourth one, and I'm getting tired. But I thought I'd try one more," said Charles Kress, of York, Pennsylvania. "DOMA? I mean, c'mon. Please."
Kress was referring to the Defense of Marriage Act — preventing recognition of gay marriage on the federal level — which was a focal point for activists along with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military rule that homosexual activists view as antithetical to both national security and human rights. Anti-discrimination laws, rights to adoption, and marital benefits for civil unions were also on the agenda.
"Hopefully, the rally will show people that civil unions are not the same [as marriage]," said Brittany, 22, who hopes to one day legally wed her girlfriend, Miranda.
Lt. Dan Choi, who was kicked out of the Army this year after coming out of the closet, sounded like a preacher when he addressed the crowd in front of the Capitol, saying that it was "time to tell," a play on words of the military's policy. Signs like "Did we vote for your marriage?" and "Legalize gay" were held by both men and women activists, of different races and sexual orientations. Many activists came by bus from states across the U.S. as part of local lobbying groups.
The rally took place as battles rage in Washington State and Maine to overturn laws granting same-sex couples legal benefits. The hotly-contested Proposition 8 legislation in California, which prevents gays from marrying in the state, was a big loss for the homosexual lobby last November. But many who attended the rally were hopeful, saying that despite these major setbacks, they believed their cause was far from lost.
Many said the rally was a smaller than those held in past years, and more mainstream. Instead of loud displays of deviant sexuality, the event was calm and largely contained. There were certainly pockets of explicit displays — men in tight-fitting t-shirts and large pink hats held hands and other parts of their partners' anatomy, and a 60's-kickback group that called themselves "Fairies" featured shirtless men kissing each others' nipples on the Capitol lawn. But there were far more respectably-clad gay couples who were soft-spoken. If they existed, counter-protesters were out of sight.
A reoccurring theme was disillusionment with the pace of President Obama's legislation on homosexual rights. Obama has repeatedly voiced his support for repealing DOMA, but has steadfastly refused to implement a timetable for doing so. Obama also has not publicly spoken out in support of the battles raging in individual states — not even as the keynote speaker for the annual banquet of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-advocacy group.
During the rally, musician Billie Myers told the President said that she simply didn't like the speech the President had given at the dinner, saying that it didn't explain the slothlike pace he had taken on the gay rights agenda. But Kress said he understood Obama's position.
"He's working with others," he said. "He cannot do it without the House and the Senate. You just can't go in with a hot poker."
Lady Gaga, the most prominent speaker at the event, sounded mournful when she talked about the prospects for changing legislation.
"I will continue to fight for equality for us all," she said. "Bless God and bless the gays."