18 Years Ago: The March on Washington

By Thompson, Mark | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), October 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

18 Years Ago: The March on Washington


Thompson, Mark, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


A raging rebellion called Stonewall sounded the first cries of gay liberation in the land, but it would take another decade for the gay and lesbian cause to fully come of age. On October 14, 1979, more than 100,000 activists from every state in the union and ten foreign countries joined forces for the first march on Washington. "It symbolizes the birth of a national gay movement," said National Gay Task Force codirector Lucia Valeska, one of the leaders of the day.

The march began near the U.S. Capitol, passed the White House, and ended at the Washington Monument, where more than 30 speakers and entertainers appeared before the throng. The lively procession was headed by lesbians, many of them singing "When the Dykes Come Marching In." The kaleidoscope of gay organizations taking part included religious and political groups of every stripe, parents of gays, and contingents of students. The mass swarmed down Pennsylvania Avenue and onto the vast grassy Mall, where participants were roused to cheers by comic Robin Tyler, who shouted, "If freedom shall ring in the country, it must ring for all Americans, or in time it will not ring at all for anyone. …

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