Yalies march for LGBT in D.C.

WASHINGTON — Yale student activists added a splash of Bulldog blue to the rainbow-colored crowd at the National Equality March on Sunday.

About 25 Yale students travelled to the nation’s capital to participate in the march, which drew tens of thousands of members of the LGBT community and their supporters here. Most of the students traveled to the event with more than 70 Connecticut activists on a bus chartered by the Connecticut chapter of Equality Across America.

The march was part of a national effort to raise awareness about discrimination against gays. Participants carried signs and shouted chants advocating for same-sex marriage, abolition of the U.S. military “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and protection of LGBT individuals in schools and the workplace. The march came the day after President Barack Obama’s address at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner on Saturday night, during which the president renewed his promise to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military but did not offer any specific timetable.

Marchers of all age groups, ranging from high school students to the elderly, flooded down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the South Lawn of the Capitol, where the event culminated in a rally featuring gay activist icons such as Cleve Jones, an AIDS activist and protege of Harvey Milk, and Lt. Daniel Choi, a discharged National Guardsman. Many of the Yale students in attendance, including Amalia Horon-Skilton ’13, cited Jones, an AIDS and LGBT activist who visited Yale Law School on Oct. 6, as a source of inspiration.

The Yalies left New Haven at 4:30 a.m. on a bus chartered by the Connecticut chapter of Equality Across America, a group created to rally supporters to attend the march.

Despite sleep deprivation and the seven-hour bus ride, students arrived in Washington eager to make signs for and participate in the march.

Of the six Yale students interviewed, all said they were upset at openly-gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank’s comments Saturday in which he described the march as a “waste of time at best.”

Alison Adams ’09, who now works at a non-profit environmental organization in Washington, D.C., said she thinks the march will put pressure on members of Congress to overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

“I think Barney Frank’s comment is ridiculous,” Adams said. “There’s going to be a lot of press coverage about the march, and the politicians afterwards will have to respond to this.”

Lexi Gainsmith ’13 said she came to the event to speak out as a lesbian and that she is looking for “equality in everything.”

“I don’t think it’s just a one time deal,” Gainsmith said. “We should all rally and also send letters to our senators and congressmen.”

Other universities also had contingents at the march. Students from Princeton University carried a large orange banner to show their support. The Pride Alliance of Amherst College sent 20 students to the event.

The Yale students dressed in relatively subdued casual clothing compared with students from other colleges, who decked themselves in rainbow stripes. But when it came time to chant, the Yalies were just as fervent, shouting cheers such as, “Hey Obama, can’t you see? We demand equality.”

During the rally following the march, several speakers addressed Obama’s seeming lack of commitment to the LGBT cause. David Mixner, the chief organizer of the National Equality March, criticized the president for not signing a stop-loss order to halt the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy temporarily.

“The president asked us to help him, and help him, we did,” Mixner said. “But we voted for him not to be led by Congress, but for him to lead Congress.”

Choi, a U.S. Army combat veteran who was discharged from the National Guard after he disclosed his sexual orientation on The Rachel Maddow Show this March, gave a personal testimony about how difficult it is for LGBT people to serve in the military.

“Love is worth fighting for,” Choi said. “We love our country even when it rejects our love.”

The rally also featured a performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., which sang classics like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Over the Rainbow.” The chorus’s concluding rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” drew warm applause from the audience, which filled the South Lawn of the Capitol and spilled over into the surrounding sidewalks.

The march appeared to draw little criticism from tourists or the residents of Washingtonian, D.C., as onlookers who lined the sidewalk along the march route cheered on while waving rainbow flags.

While the March itself took place on Sunday, the Web site for Equality Across America advertised events beginning Friday afternoon and stretching to Monday.

Comments

  • The Count

    It amazes me how, as much as people always see New Haven as a rail town, especially with direct service to Washington, D.C., that people still take buses to these things. Doesn’t Amtrak offer a group discount? Is it the price? Don’t take the Acela, take the Northeast Regional. It seems as though the railroad is always a great thing for someone ELSE to use. It boggles the mind…

  • yale 08

    Yawn.

  • Sarah

    When will the heterosexuals march against the homosexual agenda? This is getting absurd. No one cares how you live or what orientation you are. Please stop pushing it in our face.

  • Recent Alum

    THANK YOU, Sarah!

  • leave me alone

    Uh, there was a march? Huh? I just graduated this past year and live in DC now and drove through downtown yesterday and saw no evidence of any march. I guess that shows how much coverage this thing got, for the Yalie who thought it would get coverage. Maybe the GLBT folk would get more respect if they stopped fighting so hard–it gets downright annoying. I personally know a few people who are a member of that group, who I like, but have a huge hatred for the cause. I felt victimized all the time at Yale by the political correctness–I had to be in constant fear of being harassed by a member of the activist gay community if I made a slightly negative comment toward one of these minority groups. For demanding so many rights and wanting so much acceptance, thee groups are very closed minded and trying to change my views only creates more of a backlash. I have spent too much time hearing about the Coop lashing out against this group or the Women’s Center going on another tirade–if you want acceptance, do it in a calm, civil manner and don’t impose your views on me–society gradually evolves. In regards to Amtrak–it is just too expensive–the cheapest ticket is $72, but is often $124.

  • PC09

    “For demanding so many rights and wanting so much acceptance”? We’re just asking for the same rights and responsibilities afforded to straight people.
    Also, people DO care how we live or what orientation we are, otherwise there wouldn’t be laws excluding us from things like serving openly in the military, having our relationships recognized at the federal level, or being able to adopt children. Being “calm” and “civil” belies the urgency of this struggle. The homophobia we experience, institutional or not, makes our lives as fellow Americans less than what we deserve. LGBT people are second-class citizens that can lose their jobs in 31 states of simply being who they are. We are victims of hate crimes and bullying that leads too many LGBT youth to take their own lives. We don’t want any special rights, that isn’t American, we simply want our equal rights. Some respect would be nice, too.

  • Cherie

    Sarah –

    I’m glad you think no one cares about how lgbt people live or what orientation they are. I hope you don’t. But a lot of people do. Enough that a majority of people in about thirty states will vote to deny gay people the right to marry. Enough that cops recently harassed and used unreasonable force in gay bars in atlanta and texas. Enough that lots of members of congress are too scared to assert that we deserve equal rights, even if they believe we do. Enough that at my bulldog days, someone taped over the co-op’s flag to say “Yale Gluttony.” Enough that a girl at my high school’s jaw was broken on a sidewalk by two people who found her perceived sexual orientation offensive.

    I agree that “For demanding so many rights and wanting so much acceptance” was a truly bizarre thing to say. LGBT people aren’t demanding any rights that aren’t afforded to other people. Is “wanting so much acceptance” an unreasonable goal, at all? What’s the alternative? ‘leave me alone’ suggests that lgbt advocacy should be toned down because “society gradually evolves.” Even with fierce advocacy for lgbt rights, there’s a very imminent reality for many many people that they will die before they have the right to get married, or adopt a child. Or they will be fired from their (sometimes decades long) military careers before the government decides they don’t need to be fired. Or they will be attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity before the federal government is empowered to support investigation of local hate crimes. I don’t want to die without being an equal citizen, and we don’t have a terribly long time to live as it is. Certainly not enough for everyone in the country to wake up one day and decide that i deserve the rights that so, so, so many people and dollars have worked to deny me (tirelessly… as if they have nothing better to do… it really baffles me).

    I hope it makes more sense now, why powerful advocacy for LGBT people exists and is necessary.

  • Emma S.

    To Sarah, Recent Alum and leave me alone:

    Write a column or letter about it and put your full name on it. If you have a non-homophobic argument for why, in a Democracy, one group should not speak up and ask for key benefits afforded to the majority but denied them, we’d all like to hear it.

    As far as I can tell, this is a question of those inalienable rights for the sake of which this country was founded. It’s embarrassing that, in America of all places, certain people are legally considered more deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than others. This ought to be changed right away–not “gradually.”

  • DC13

    “Society gradually evolves”, leavemealone? Seriously? Do you think that women would have the right to vote if people just *waited* for society to evolve?

    In our country, right now, there are different laws that govern your rights and my rights. I cannot serve in the military openly. In more states than not, someone can legally fire me because of my sexuality. Even here in Connecticut, where I ostensibly have the right to marry whoever I want, my marriage would not be recognized by the federal government, meaning most notably that I would not receive any Social Security benefits from marriage.

    LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth… but hey, trying to foster tolerance to prevent that is obviously not worth it if it makes some people *uncomfortable*, right?

    For the record, estimates range from 200,000 to 300,000 on the march–about as many as the 1963 march for civil rights.

  • Yale Queer

    @#3 I’ll stop pushing my agenda of being treated like a human being the moment heterosexuals stop shoving their lifestyle in my face and insisting their existences are intrinsically more valuable than my own.

    @#5 My heart breaks for how awful it must have felt for you to feel that you couldn’t express a negative view about whole minority groups. Honestly. When people show up in your yard with torches and baseball bats screaming “Kill the hetero,” let me know and my empathy is right here waiting for you.

  • Alexandra (CC ’11)

    Amen to PC09! Guys, until we have equal rights, we’re going to keep “shoving this in your faces.” Until LGBT kids don’t have to worry about getting murdered for being who they are. Until no one can get fired from their job because of who they love or what their gender identity is, until people who love each other and happen to be of the same sex aren’t denied the nearly 1200 benefits that come with heterosexual marriage, and so forth. You want to stop hearing so much about LGBT people? Call up your congresspeople and ask them to give us our equal rights.

  • Hannah

    Sarah, many people care how LGBT people live and how they are. They care so much that they deny an entire class of people full and equal protection of the law. The march was not an effort to push anything into other citizen’s faces, it was an effort to demand equal treatment from the federal government.

    To “leave me alone”, it is absolutely incorrect that the LGBT community would “get more respect if they stopped fighting so hard.” Think back to the African American civil rights movement. If they had not fought for their rights, nobody would have just handed equality to them on a platter. I’m sorry to hear you find these efforts annoying, but the march was in fact done in a “calm, civil manner” so I’m really not certain what the problem is, especially given that you hardly knew it had happened.

    If you dislike hearing about the ongoing struggle for equal treatment, if it bothers you that much, perhaps you could try not reading and commenting on articles such as these.

  • @The Count

    Believe me, I love Amtrak as much as you, but are you kidding? YES it’s the price! If I want to book a trip to Boston this weekend, Greyhound costs around $30 if I buy it today. Amtrak costs at least $50, more if I want to take a convenient train. Admittedly if you buy those tickets early they’re ALMOST as cheap as Greyhound, but the price shoots up fast.

  • LakeHMM

    Sarah:

    Do you spend any amount of seconds thinking about what you say? Clearly people DO care, since they don’t allow us to get married in most places.

    Everyone:

    I appreciate how annoying superfluous political correctness can be. Keep in mind that, as accepting as Yale might make the world look, the rest of the world doesn’t look nearly as kindly on gay people. Only in 1999 did the number of people who felt that “homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle” surpass the number who thought otherwise. The majority of the people in the country has always been opposed to gay marriage.

    I’m against nitpicking every little thing people say and making people feel like they’re stepping on eggshells, but this is so much more than that.

  • leave ME alone

    “I felt victimized all the time at Yale by the political correctness–I had to be in constant fear of being harassed by a member of the activist gay community if I made a slightly negative comment toward one of these minority groups.”

    You’re right, I should probably let you make negative comments about minorities. wtf. And until recently, I shared your views about the lbgt movement, that it was abrasive and demanding. But is it really that demanding to want equality. If I got to invalidate your relationships or take your job away for being whatever you may be, would you not want to be heard? Sure things will change eventually. In 50 years, lgbt people will have equality. But what about the couples now? what about the people who want to serve now? SHould they just wait 50 years, or should they try to get things changed? It’s pretty obvious.

  • Hannah

    Sarah, many people care how LGBT people live and how they are. They care so much that they deny an entire class of people full and equal protection of the law. The march was not an effort to push anything into other citizen’s faces, it was an effort to demand equal treatment from the federal government.

    To “leave me alone”, it is absolutely incorrect that the LGBT community would “get more respect if they stopped fighting so hard.” Think back to the African American civil rights movement. If they had not fought for their rights, nobody would have just handed equality to them on a platter. I’m sorry to hear you find these efforts annoying, but the march was in fact done in a “calm, civil manner” so I’m really not certain what the problem is, especially given that you hardly knew it had happened.

    I certainly wish it were not necessary to fight, that the LGBT community was not second class under the law. However, since this inequality exists, since people are fired and deported and violently attacked, it is imperative that we do not sit back and accept it.

    If you dislike hearing about the ongoing struggle for equal treatment, if it bothers you that much, perhaps you could try not reading and commenting on articles such as these.

  • Yale 08

    Yes!

    Blind People Should Be Allowed to Drive!

    When will the injustice end?

    How much longer will we deny the rights of blind people to drive motor vehicles?

    We need to march!

  • Anonymous

    Technically, it is not illegal for blind people to drive cars. However, I think many blind people personally choose not to operate motor vehicles.

  • y09

    Actually, it is – you have to pass a vision test in order to have a driver’s license.

    It’s still a terribly offensive analogy though, #17 – are you arguing that homosexuals getting married are likely to cause death and destruction, as a blind driver would?