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social sciences

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Marches on Washington  
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By 1987, Latino glbtq activists from Los Angeles, Houston, Austin, and elsewhere had been meeting for two years, discussing ways to work together to further the basic rights and visibility of glbtq Latinas and Latinos. But with AIDS having a disproportionate impact on Latino glbtq communities throughout the United States, the activists recognized the need for a national organization and met at the March on Washington to form what was then called NLLGA, National Latina/o Lesbian and Gay Activists. Renaming themselves LLEGÓ the following year, the group has since expanded to address issues of concern to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Latinas and Latinos in other countries.

Along with the formation of new national groups, the most lasting effects of the weekend's events were felt on the local level. Energized and inspired by the march, many activists returned home and established social and political groups in their own communities, providing even greater visibility and strength to the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

Sponsor Message.

The date of the march, October 11, has been celebrated internationally ever since as National Coming Out Day to inspire members of the glbtq community to continue to show, as one of the common march slogans proclaimed, "we are everywhere."

The 1993 March

The growing strength of the movement was evident six years later, on April 25, 1993, when nearly a million people attended the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. It was the largest demonstration in United States history to that time.

With the defeat of George Bush's bid for re-election the previous fall ending the Reagan-Bush era, the mood of the march was much more celebratory and hopeful than in 1987.

The 1993 march received unprecedented media coverage for a glbtq event, including a cover story in Newsweek and news reports on the front page of many newspapers across the country.

The march was also groundbreaking for receiving the unanimous endorsement of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People--the first time that direct institutional ties had been made between the glbtq rights movement and the civil rights movement--and for explicitly including bisexuals in its name (although the march steering committee voted to add just "bi," fearing that the word "bisexual" would overly sexualize the event). Although attempts to add the word "transgender" to the march title failed, the rights of transgender people were included in the list of march demands.

The failure of the government to respond adequately to the AIDS crisis continued to be a major concern, but other glbtq issues were also prominent during the march. The right of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals to serve in the armed forces was an especially prominent theme, as President Clinton had failed to carry through on a campaign promise to repeal the military ban.

In addition to the march, participants could take part in more than 250 related events, including conferences, workshops, protests, congressional lobbying, dances, readings, and religious ceremonies.

The 2000 March

While the first three Marches on Washington were largely grassroots efforts with a broad section of the glbtq community represented on the organizing committees, the Millennium March on Washington for Equality in 2000 was called and directed by the Human Rights Campaign and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, with little initial consultation of other national, state, and local groups.

The march organizers sought to allay criticism that the event was being planned by a white, affluent, and relatively assimilated segment of the glbtq movement by including a more diverse representation on the board of directors. However, criticism continued about the closed nature of the planning process and the lack of a coherent political agenda and sense of purpose as compared to previous marches.

The focus appeared to be mainly on entertainment and corporate sponsorship. Because of these concerns, many prominent glbtq leaders joined a boycott movement, and a number of glbtq organizations opposed or subsequently withdrew their support from the march, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum.

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