Magazine article The Progressive

Marching On

Magazine article The Progressive

Marching On

Article excerpt

The April 25 march on Washington was one of the largest ever assembled in this country, and it made an unmistakable point: Homosexuals and their supporters put the country on notice that we will not rest until the rights of lesbians and gays are guaranteed.

No matter that the Park Service laughably underestimated the numbers. Anyone who attended knew that the 300,000 estimate was off by at least a factor of three. And the unity of the crowd was even more impressive than the magnitude: Lesbians and gay men have arrived at a new level of mutual understanding, support, and cohesion; old tensions have dissipated as the movement has come together not just to fight AIDS but to assert political power.

It is this assertion of power that has straight America scared. You could almost hear the sigh of relief when a recent study put the percentage of gays and lesbians in the 2-to-3 per cent range. The reaction seemed to be: "Well, since there aren't so many of them, we don't have to take them seriously - or even deal with them."

But deal they must. The exact percentage of lesbians and gays in America is irrelevant - a subsequent study put the number at 4 per cent, and many in the movement believe it is closer to the traditional estimate of 10 per cent. The point is, lesbians and gay men deserve full civil rights - freedom from job discrimination, freedom from hate crimes, freedom to love - no matter their numbers. Bigotry and discrimination are not justifiable by percentages. In America. there is no rule that says the smaller the minority, the more tolerable the prejudice against that minority.

That is the lesson of the march. As soon as it was over, however, the obstacles besetting lesbians and gays came quickly into focus:

[paragraph] The crew of an American Airlines jet carrying demonstrators from the march to Dallas/Fort Worth was so biased and ignorant that it threw all the pillows and blankets off the plane before taking off again. …

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