March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation
The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation was a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. on April 25, 1993. Organizers estimated that 1,000,000 attended the March. The D.C. Police Department put the number between 800,000 and more than 1 million., making it one of the largest protests in American history. The National Park Service estimated attendance at 300,000, but their figure attracted so much negative attention that it shortly thereafter stopped issuing attendance estimates for similar events.
Background and planning
Between the 1987 March on Washington and the early 1990s, LGBT people achieved much more mainstream visibility than they ever had in the past. The LGBT community still faced widespread discrimination, through such policies as Don't Ask Don't Tell, Colorado's constitutional amendment (1992) invalidating laws that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and rising instances of LGBT-targeted hate crimes. In this climate, Urvashi Vaid of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spearheaded the movement for a third LG March.
In January 1991, she sent a letter to LG organizations across the U.S. to garner support for a third march and to invite them to send delegates to a planning meeting on March 9, 1991, in Washington, D.C. No consensus was reached regarding the march's potential date at this meeting, so a second meeting was arranged for the weekend of May 11–12, 1991, again in Washington. This meeting provided the mandate for the march: to rebuild and reinvigorate local and national activists. Additional organizational meetings took place in Chicago (August 1991), Los Angeles (January 1992), Dallas (May 1992), Denver (October 1992) and Washington DC (February 1993).
During the planning the MOW National Steering Committee voted for adding "transgender" to the official title of the march, but the efforts failed because of the lacking two-thirds majority needed for passage (See: TransSisters Sept/Okt 1993, Issue #1, p. 14).
Platform and demands
March organizers agreed upon seven primary demands, each with further secondary demands. The primary demands were:
- We demand passage of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.
- We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research, and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative therapies; and an end to sexism in medical research and health care.
- We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in the areas of family diversity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of family includes the full diversity of all family structures.
- We demand full and equal inclusion of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in the educational system, and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies in multicultural curricula.
- We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control our own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.
- We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.
- We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppression based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, identification, race, religion, identity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.
Speakers and events
In the days surrounding the March, a wide range of events serving different groups within the LGBT community were held in and around Washington, DC. These included historical exhibits, religious services, lobbying events, social gatherings, art exhibits, political workshops, public service events, and candlelight vigils.
The day before the march, two demonstrations raised the issue of same-sex marriage. About 1,500 same-sex couples assembled at the National Museum of Natural History with, according to the Washington Post, "a dozen ministers, organ music, photographers and rice". A far smaller gathering of several same-sex couples protested in front of the Internal Revenue Service building and performed a symbolic wedding ceremony titled "an Interfaith Ceremony of Commitment". According to the Chicago Tribune, the demonstration's point was a demand "for full legal recognition of domestic partnerships" for tax purposes.
Speakers and performers at the rally following the march included Judith Light, Melissa Etheridge, RuPaul, Madonna, Martina Navratilova, Ian McKellen, Eartha Kitt, Lani Ka'ahumanu, Urvashi Vaid, Jesse Jackson, and Martha Wash. Lani Ka'ahumanu was the only out bisexual to speak at the rally out of 18 total speakers; she had conceived and led a successful national campaign to have bisexual people included in the title of the march. The phrase “ We’re here, we’re queer, get over it ! “ was introduced vocally during the March .
- National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (1979)
- Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (1987)
- Millennium March on Washington (2000)
- National Equality March (2009)
- National Pride March (2017)
- List of protest marches on Washington, D.C.
- Huffington Post "The 20th Anniversary of the LGBT March on Washington: How Far Have We Come?", accessed April 25, 2013
- GLSEN: "Changing Times, Changing Demands" Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine., accessed September 13, 2011
- Ghaziani, Amin. 2008. "The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington." University of Chicago Press.
- "Platform of 1993 March on Washington". Queer Resource Directory.
- "1993 March on Washington Event Listings". Queer Resource Directory.
- Wheeler, Linda (April 25, 1993). "Mass Wedding Marries Tradition and Protest". Washington Post. Highbeam Research. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Wendy Benner-Leon and Terri Leon-Benner , April 24, 1993". Getty Images. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
- McRoberts, Flynn (April 25, 1993). "Gays Take Fight For Dignity To D.C." Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Judith Light Speaker Bio". allamericanspeakers.com.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2009-11-24. Simple Matter of Justice, A: The 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation
- Ka'ahumanu, Lani. "HOW I SPENT MY TWO WEEK VACATION BEING A TOKEN BISEXUAL". Lani Ka'ahumanu Writings.
- "Urvashi Vaid Speaks at the March on Washington". Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science.
- "Lani's bio". lanikaahumanu.com.
- Hall, Donald (July 1, 1996). Presenting Bisexualities: Subjects and Cultures of Fluid Desire. NYU Press. pp. 93–. ISBN 9780814766347. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
- Ghaziani, Amin (October 1, 2008). The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington. University of Chicago Press. pp. 151–. ISBN 9780226289960. Retrieved August 17, 2012.