National Equality March

Dwayne Yates

Watch video from the march.

Listen to audio from the march.

Read about Kent State student Joseph Alexander’s experience at the march.

People from all over the country – black, white, straight and gay – demonstrated in Washington, D.C., to get equal rights such as the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the repeal of the Army’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

Vanessa Kraps, library science graduate student, rode a bus to Washington with students from other universities in northeast Ohio and representatives of the Akron AIDS Collaborative.

At a PRIDE!Kent meeting, Kraps heard about a bus traveling from Akron to attend the march, and she jumped at the opportunity to join thousands of people protesting for equal rights.

“Growing up, my dad always told me that my generation is so disconnected from events that we need to become involved,” Kraps said. “I need to care what goes on in my country and other countries because it’s our world and we need to take care of it.”

Gay rights activist Vincent Morvatz rode the bus with Kraps. He said the National Equality March was the fifth march that has happened on the Mall since 1979.

“I think with Obama, we have a chance to push for more civil rights and legislation,” Morvatz said.

“Cleve Jones (National Equality March co-chairman) called for representatives from all 420 congressional districts so that we can go back to our home states and home districts and say ‘We are the voting public; we are the people who elect the politicians who decide the laws of this land,'” he said.

The march began with protestors lining up according to state. The march went by many national monuments and the back of the White House. It ended at the stairs of the Capital Building, where a stage was set up for speakers to address the crowd.

Openly gay government officials spoke urging marchers to vote for people who would help fight for the cause of equality. Activists from grassroots organizations from across the nation urged protestors to join them in a collective fight for equality.

Morvatz said every time a new group of 20-somethings comes around, there is a new grassroots movement. Without those organizations, this may not have been possible.

“This was a call to the grassroots community,” Morvatz said, “Saying ‘If these rights are important to you, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from . your representation is important here to help show the government that we demand equal civil rights and protection under the law.”

Actress Cynthia Nixon and singer Lady GaGa also showed their support.

“This movement isn’t just about our ability to get married,” Nixon said while standing on the podium. “It is about demanding equal rights, equal responsibilities, equal opportunities, equal treatment and equal protection under the law so that no parent will have to endure what (Judy Shepard) has endured.”

Judy Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, a young man who was killed because of his sexual preference in 1998.

Morvatz said new hate crime laws have been passed in the House of Representatives, and are very close to being passed in the Senate. Morvatz said he credits this as an effect of the shock Shepard’s death.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Dwayne Yates at [email protected].