Demanding gay civil rights and seeking solidarity, about 300 Harvard gay, bisexual and lesbian students, faculty, alumni and staff marched on Washington this Sunday.
Called one of the largest civil rights marches in United States history, the rally brought together what organizers said were nearly one million gays, lesbians, bisexuals and others on a march route that started at the Mall and passed the White House and Capitol building.
The march spotlighted three major concerns of the gay community: the military's ban on homosexuals, the need to enact federal gay and lesbian anti-discrimination legislation and the need to increase funding for AIDS research, according to John G. Wofford '57, co-chair of the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, a group for alumni, faculty and staff.
The Harvard contingent was one of the largest university groups in attendance, according to Andrew J. Greenspan, a Medical School student and member of the Leadership Council, a University-wide coalition of 15 gay campus organizations.
About 100 of the Harvard marchers were undergraduates, said Javier Romero '95, co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students' Association (BGLSA). The students shouted several chants, including, "Lift the ban!" and "We're here, we're queer, our parents think we're studying!"
While some Harvard march participants rallied Sunday for specific political reasons, many undergraduates interviewed said they marched to make the government and the public aware of the growing gay community and its concerns.
"[Marching] was really important because as far as the gay, bisexual and lesbian civil rights movement has gone, we're at a point where things are at a crucial balance," said Royce C. Lin '96, a member of BGLSA. "But one of the biggest reasons not voiced is a general wish for people to understand that gays, bisexuals and lesbians are not different from anyone else."
Romero said he was "in awe" because he had never been in such a large gathering of gay people.
"Although we shouldn't be a numbers-oriented society, we are," said Romero. "I wanted there to be a lot of people and I wanted to be a part of history."
Although estimates of the exact number of participants range from a National Parks Services count of 300,000 to informal counts by organizers of over one million, the magnitude of the march indicates a growing, politically active gay community, Wofford said.
"The agenda is part of the reason [to march], but the other is to share in our numbers," said Wofford, who also marched at the Capitol in 1987. "So many more are out of the closet, wanting to march and impatient about getting our rights.