March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

LGBT people and their supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., for marches, demonstrations, vigils, conferences, and other events. The march marked the start of a new era for the LGBT movement, as it recognized more explicitly the need to embrace transgender people as well as people of all races and backgrounds. Also, the issue of GLBT persons in the military became a major part of the movement’s platform.

Summary of Event

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement (also known as the LGBT movement) has been based upon equality since its conception. Organizers, however, had more than equality on their minds when they planned the 1993 March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. Organizers also wanted to have a balanced and inclusive decision-making group for the march, one that would include people from many races and which represented all genders. Backed by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), march organizers also were able to meld their concerns about fairness and inclusion into the march agenda. [kw]March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation (Apr. 25, 1993) [kw]Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, March on (Apr. 25, 1993) [kw]Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, March on Washington for (Apr. 25, 1993) [kw]Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, March on Washington for Gay, (Apr. 25, 1993) [kw]Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and (Apr. 25, 1993) [kw]Equal Rights and Liberation, March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi (Apr. 25, 1993) [kw]Rights and Liberation, March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal (Apr. 25, 1993) March on Washington (1993) Political activism;marches [c]Marches, protests, and riots;Apr. 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation[2290] [c]Civil rights;Apr. 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation[2290] [c]Government and politics;Apr. 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation[2290] [c]Transgender/transsexuality;Apr. 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation[2290] [c]Religion;Apr. 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation[2290] [c]Organizations and institutions;Apr. 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation[2290]

The march platform included issues pertaining to GLBT rights as well as civil rights in general, and to issues of discrimination, education, family rights, and others. HIV-AIDS concerns, too, were high on the list of demands and priorities, as was the demand to end the ban Military, U.S.[Military US];and service ban[service ban] that kept gays and lesbians out of the military and that discharged those found to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual while in the service.

The preamble to the march’s platform stated,

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender movement recognizes that our quest for social justice fundamentally links us to the struggles against racism and sexism, class bias, economic injustice, and religious intolerance. We must realize if one of us is oppressed we all are oppressed. The diversity of our movement requires and compels us to stand in opposition to all forms of oppression that diminish the quality of life for all people. We will be vigilant in our determination to rid our movement and our society of all forms of oppression and exploitation, so that all of us can develop to our full human potential without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation/identification, identity, gender and gender expression, ability, age, or class.

The week of the march included more than 150 political and cultural events. The AIDS Memorial Quilt, a stark reminder of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, was on display on the Washington Mall. Visitors to D.C. could take part in conferences and workshops, congressional lobbying, and religious ceremonies. Couples had the chance to join in a symbolic wedding ceremony held in front of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) building. A candlelight vigil was held at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and there was a gathering at Arlington National Cemetery to honor lesbian, gay, and bisexual veterans.

Protesters demonstrated in front of the U.S. Supreme Court the Monday after the march. Organizers had planned for groups of people to cross police lines and sit on the plaza in front of the Court building. That morning, protester Herb Donaldson and a group of his friends from San Francisco had decided to join the demonstration, even if it meant their arrest. At the end of the day, standing in the courtroom after being arrested, protesters reported that the feeling of pride and camaraderie was tremendous.

A major goal of the march was to reach Congress members and bring the GLBT message directly to them. Many lawmakers, however, avoided activists throughout the weekend. The LGBT community felt they had been supported politically by President Bill Clinton Clinton, Bill and his positive position on lesbian and gay rights. Regrettably to activists, Clinton seemed to have become somewhat embarrassed by his own support. Although he submitted a statement that was read to the crowd assembled after the march, some protesters felt his support had diminished. David Mixner, a gay rights leader who had worked on Clinton’s campaign in 1991, criticized Clinton for being absent from Washington the day of the march. Mixner pointed out that the stronger the march had become, the greater the evacuation of Washington by politicians.

Although march organizers said the 1993 march was the largest demonstration in U.S. history, officials have not been able to agree on a definite number. U.S. Park Police estimated the crowd to have numbered about 300,000 individuals, whereas organizers argued that there were more than 1 million protesters and marchers. Regardless of the numbers, it is clear that the event received unprecedented media coverage. Major television networks covered the event, many with live broadcasts. The following day, 156 newspapers nationwide carried front page stories of the landmark gathering.

Significance

Years after the 1993 march, the United States has seen some change regarding the rights of LGBT individuals, especially regarding same-gender civil unions, employment discrimination, and domestic partnership benefits. Also, the unity of the event was unprecedented; for the first time in history, the LGBT movement connected with the NAACP.

Although organizers of the march chose not to use the term “transgender” in the march’s name, they still were able to bridge gaps within the LGBT community by making sure to include a wider range of individuals under the lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights umbrella. It was not too long after the march that the acronym “LGBT,” and its variations, began to be used by the movement as an all-inclusive acronym. March on Washington (1993) Political activism;marches

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clendinen, D., and A. Nagourney. Out for Good. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Coxe, Cece, Lisa Means, and Lisa Pope. One Million Strong: The 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights. Boston: Alyson, 1993.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marcus, Eric. Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vaid, Urvashi. Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Witt, L., S. Thomas, and Eric Marcus, eds. Out in All Directions: A Treasury of Gay and Lesbian America. New York: Warner Books, 1995.

July 2-August 28, 1963: Rustin Organizes the March on Washington

August, 1966: Queer Youth Fight Police Harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco

June 27-July 2, 1969: Stonewall Rebellion Ignites Modern Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement

July 31, 1969: Gay Liberation Front Is Formed

May 1, 1970: Lavender Menace Protests Homophobia in Women’s Movement

June 28, 1970: First Lesbian and Gay Pride March in the United States

October 12-15, 1979: First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

March, 1987: Radical AIDS Activist Group ACT UP Is Founded

October 11, 1987: Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

December 10, 1989: ACT UP Protests at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

March 20, 1990: Queer Nation Is Founded

April 24, 1993: First Dyke March Is Held in Washington, D.C.

June, 1994: Stonewall 25 March and Rallies Are Held in New York City

June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City

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