National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

Last updated

The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. on October 14, 1979. The first such march on Washington, it drew between 75,000 and 125,000 [1] gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, and straight allies to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation. [2]

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.


History and Planning

The first major attempt at organizing a national gay and lesbian march on Washington occurred Thanksgiving Weekend 1973 in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. The National Gay Mobilizing Committee for a March on Washington (NGMC), organized by Jeff Graubart, attempted to coordinate a coalition of extant LGBT organizations to plan a March on Washington. Early efforts were met with resistance from local and national LGBT organizations, [3] and plans for a march were ultimately postponed.

Illinois State of the United States of America

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

LGBT Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons

LGBT, or GLBT, is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which was used to replace the term gay in reference to the LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. Activists believed that the term gay community did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred.

The next organization attempt was to occur in Minneapolis the weekend of November 17–19, 1978. [1] A steering committee was created to prepare for the Minneapolis conference, and it identified a primary goal of the march as transforming the gay movement from local to national. However, the committee was dissolved in October 1978 due to internal dissent. [4] Harvey Milk, who had been on the Minneapolis steering committee, took up the reins to continue march organization, and had secured support from local DC groups who had previously dissented before he was assassinated by Dan White. Milk's assassination served as a catalyst and a touchstone for organizers, who next planned a conference in Philadelphia February 23–25, 1979. One male and one female delegate was invited from known lesbian and gay organizations, and the attendees set forth to address three primary questions. First, whether or not a march should take place. Second, what the organizational structure of the march should be. And third, the platform of the march. [1] An initial debate between marching in 1979 and 1980 sprung up, but 1979 was settled upon as it fell on the ten-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. [1] Once these issues were settled and issues of female and minority representation were handled, the conference set forth five demands that would serve as the platform for the march. The participants chose to focus on single-issue politics so as not to dilute the message of a united lesbian and gay community. [1] The final organizational push occurred at a conference at the University of Houston campus July 6–8, 1979.[ citation needed ]

Harvey Milk American politician who became a martyr in the gay community

Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although he was the most pro-LGBT politician in the United States at the time, politics and activism were not his early interests; he was neither open about his sexuality nor civically active until he was 40, after his experiences in the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

Dan White American politician, killer of Moscone and Milk

Daniel James White was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, on Monday, November 27, 1978, at City Hall. In a controversial verdict that led to the coining of the legal slang "Twinkie defense", White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder in the deaths of Milk and Moscone. White served five years of a seven-year prison sentence. Less than two years after his release he returned to San Francisco and committed suicide.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

The National Steering Committee, with mandated gender parity and 25% representation of People of Color, was selected by community meetings throughout the country. Policy/Overview and Administrative Committees were established to guide the work and decisions between Steering Committee meetings. The National Office was set up in New York City with Joyce Hunter and Steven Ault as National Coordinators.[ citation needed ]


Joe Smenyak of New York City initially drafted Five Demands, later amended by the conference delegates.

Activities and Speakers

The march served to nationalize the gay movement, which had previously been focused on local struggles. [1] This spirit is invoked in the closing paragraph of the welcome program of the march, written by Allen Young.

Allen Young (writer) American journalist

Allen Young is an American journalist, author, editor and publisher who is also a social, political and environmental activist.

"Today in the capital of America, we are all here, the almost liberated and the slightly repressed; the butch, the femme and everything in-between; the androgynous; the monogamous and the promiscuous; the masturbators and the fellators and the tribadists; men in dresses and women in neckties; those who bite and those who cuddle; celebates[sic] and pederasts; diesel dykes and nelly queens; amazons and size queens, Yellow, Black, Brown, White, and Red; the shorthaired and the long, the fat and the thin; the nude and the prude; the beauties and the beasts; the studs and the duds; the communes, the couples, and the singles; pubescents and the octogenarians. Yes, we are all here! We are everywhere! Welcome to the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights!" [5]

The march began at 4th Street and the National Mall, turned left onto Pennsylvania Avenue, proceeded northwest towards the White House, turned left onto 15th Street, right onto E Street, left onto 17th Street and ended in a rally between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool. The march was led by the Salsa Soul Sisters, who carried the official march banner. It was also broadcast live on multiple National Public Radio affiliates throughout the US. Speakers and artists who spoke at the main rally included Harry Britt, Charlotte Bunch, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, Flo Kennedy, Morris Kight, Audre Lorde, Leonard Matlovich, Kate Millett, Troy Perry, Eleanor Smeal, First PFLAG President Adele Starr, and Congressman Ted Weiss. [5] Mayor Marion Barry gave a welcome to the marchers on behalf of the city of Washington, DC. [5]

Jok Church and Adam Ciesielski recorded a documentary vinyl LP of the main speeches at the event. The recording includes the voices of Robin Tyler, Steve Ault, Tom Robinson, Lucia Valeska, Allen Ginsberg, Arlie Scott, Richard Ashworth, Florynce Kennedy, Charles Law, Mary Watkins & Company, Kate Millet, Reverend Troy Perry, and people on the Gay Freedom Train. Adam Ciesielski is credited for the photos. The record was released by Magnus Records of Sacramento, California in association with Alternate Publishing. [6] Houston LGBT History (.org) holds an online recording of the record. [7]

In addition to the march itself, the organizers arranged three days of workshops featuring artistic events, strategy sessions, focus groups on specific issues of women and minorities within the LGBT community, consciousness raising, local organization, religion and other issues. [5] The Monday after the march was organized as a "Constituent Lobbying Day" in which over 500 participants attempted to contact every member of Congress to express support for gay-rights legislation. The participants successfully met with fifty senators and more than 150 house members. [8]

Organizations supporting the march included Lambda Legal Defense Fund, the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, the National Gay Task Force (who had withheld their endorsement until only a month prior to the march), [1] and the National Organization for Women. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

This is a list of notable events in the history of LGBT rights that took place in the year 1977.


DignityUSA is an organization with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts that focuses on LGBT rights and the Catholic Church. Dignity Canada exists as the Canadian sister organization. The organization is made up of local chapters across the country, and functions both as a support and social group for LGBT and LGBT-accepting Catholics to worship together, and as an activist group for LGBT rights and education about LGBT issues. Since 2007, Marianne Duddy-Burke has served as Executive Director.

Madison Pride and MAGIC Picnic was the yearly celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents of Madison, Wisconsin. The 2009 version of this event,was "Wisconsin Capitol Pride". In 2014, OutReach LGBT Community Center took over the major Pride celebration in Madison, WI. It remains the main Pride Parade planning organization today.

The National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays was the United States' first national organization for African American and Third World gay rights.

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.

Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. on October 11, 1987. Its success, size, scope, and historical importance have led to it being called, "The Great March". It marked the first national coverage of ACT UP, with AIDS activists prominent in the main march, as well as making headlines the next day during mass civil disobedience actions at the United States Supreme Court Building.

Millennium March on Washington

The Millennium March on Washington was an event to raise awareness and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and issues of LGBT rights in the US, it was held April 28 through April 30, 2000 in Washington, DC. The Millennium Pride Festival was held prior to the March, it was a huge event that saw thousands flock to the US capital. A march from the Washington Monument to the front lawn of the United States Capitol took place on April 30, where the crowd was addressed by several members of Congress and, via video, by President Bill Clinton. Estimates of attendance ranged from 200,000 to 1 million people. One of the weekend's more successful events was the sellout Equality Rocks concert produced by LGBT rights organization Human Rights Campaign. The concert was held in Washington's RFK Stadium and included stars such as Melissa Etheridge, George Michael, Pet Shop Boys, Garth Brooks, and k.d. lang.

The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) is a pedophilia and pederasty advocacy organization in the United States. It works to abolish age-of-consent laws criminalizing adult sexual involvement with minors and campaigns for the release of men who have been jailed for sexual contacts with minors that did not involve coercion. The group no longer holds regular national meetings, and as of the late 1990s—to avoid local police infiltration—the organization discouraged the formation of local chapters. Around 1995, an undercover detective discovered there were 1,100 people on the organization's rolls. In 1997, NAMBLA was the largest group in IPCE, an international pro-pedophile activist organization. Since then, the organization has dwindled to only a handful of people, with many members joining online pedophile networks such as DanPedo, BoyChat, and Annabelleigh, according to Xavier Von Erck, director of operations at the anti-pedophile organization Perverted-Justice. As of 2005, a newspaper report stated that NAMBLA was based in New York and San Francisco.

The Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL) is a United States-based interest group opposed to legalized elective abortion and supportive of alternatives to abortion.

National LGBT Bar Association

The National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association, formerly the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, is a national association of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, law students, activists, and affiliated lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender legal organizations. It was formally founded in 1989 and became an official affiliate of the American Bar Association in 1992. The association is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and its current executive director is D’Arcy Kemnitz.

Jok Church cartoonist

Jok Richard Church was an American cartoonist who created the Universal Press Syndicate syndicated comic strip You Can With Beakman and Jax, later adapted into the TV series Beakman's World. The series premiered September 18, 1992, on The Learning Channel (TLC) cable network and in national syndication. On September 18, 1993, it moved from national syndication to CBS Saturday morning children's lineup. At the peak of its popularity, it was seen in nearly 90 countries around the world.

Equality Florida

Equality Florida is a political advocacy group that advocates for civil rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents of the U.S. state of Florida. It has a non-profit arm, "Equality Florida Institute". It was established in 1997 and has been headed since inception by executive director Nadine Smith. Smith, a former journalist, served as one of the four national co-chairs on the 1993 March on Washington. Smith also led the movement to enact the St. Petersburg Human Rights Ordinance which was passed in January 2002.

Bisexuality in the United States

This article addresses the history of bisexuality in the United States. It covers this history from 1892, when the first English-language use of the word "bisexual", in the sense of being sexually attracted to both women and men, occurred, to the present.

National LGBTQ Task Force US gay rights organization

The National LGBTQ Task Force is an American social justice advocacy non-profit organizing the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. Also known as The Task Force, the organization supports action and activism on behalf of LGBTQ people and advances a progressive vision of liberation. Current leadership includes executive director Rea Carey and deputy executive director Kierra Johnson.

Mandy Carter Black LGBT rights activist

Mandy Carter is an American black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist.

The Michigan Organization for Human Rights was a Michigan-based civil rights and anti-discrimination organization. It was founded in 1977 and disbanded in 1994, with most of its assets transferring to the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Affirmations LGBT community center of Ferndale, and the Triangle Foundation—which replaced MOHR as the state's LGBT civil rights organization.

The Gay and Lesbian Labor Activists Network (GALLAN) is a non-profit organization of trade unionists founded in 1987 by Tess Ewing, Harneen Chernow, Susan Moir, Cheryl Schaffer, Nancy Marks, Gerry Thomas, Tom Barbara and Diane Fry and a few other members of Boston's LGBTQ community. GALLAN's main purpose was to support LGBTQ rights and oppose homophobia in the workforce, as well as push its unions to campaign for anti-discriminatory measures and benefits packages. GALLAN started as a series of potluck dinners and discussions, and later hosted events for the community in partnership with labor unions to campaign for LGBTQ rights within the state of Massachusetts. GALLAN helped to form the national organization Pride at Work in 1994, which became a constituency group of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in 1997. Today, GALLAN is considered a local chapter of Pride at Work.

Pat Norman is an American activist for women's rights, as well as, the African American and LGBT communities.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ghaziani, Amin. 2008. The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington. The University of Chicago Press.
  2. Thomas, Jo (15 October 1979). "75,000 March in Capital in Drive To Support Homosexual Rights; 'Sharing' and 'Flaunting'". The New York Times . pp. A14.
  3. Aiken Papers
  4. Gay Community News, November 25, 1978. "Committee Dissolves Itself: Planned March on Washington is in Trouble" by John Gracak
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Program of march
  6. Jok Church and Adam Ciesielski (14 October 1979). "Cover and liner notes from The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights LP". Magnus Records with Alternate Publishing. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  7. Jok Church and Adam Ciesielski (14 October 1979). "Recording of The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights". Magnus Records with Alternate Publishing. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  8. Endean, Steve. "Bringing Lesbian and Gay Rights into the Mainstream: Twenty Years of Progress." 2006. Haworth Press.