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Marching on.

The April 25 march on Washington was one of the largest ever assembled in this country, and it made an unmistakable point: Homosexuals and their supporters put the country on notice that we will not rest until the rights of lesbians and gays are guaranteed.

No matter that the Park Service laughably underestimated the numbers. Anyone who attended knew that the 300,000 estimate was off by at least a factor of three. And the unity of the crowd was even more impressive than the magnitude: Lesbians and gay men have arrived at a new level of mutual understanding, support, and cohesion; old tensions have dissipated as the movement has come together not just to fight AIDS but to assert political power.

It is this assertion of power that has straight America scared. You could almost hear the sigh of relief when a recent study put the percentage of gays and lesbians in the 2-to-3 per cent range. The reaction seemed to be: "Well, since there aren't so many of them, we don't have to take them seriously - or even deal with them."

But deal they must. The exact percentage of lesbians and gays in America is irrelevant - a subsequent study put the number at 4 per cent, and many in the movement believe it is closer to the traditional estimate of 10 per cent. The point is, lesbians and gay men deserve full civil rights - freedom from job discrimination, freedom from hate crimes, freedom to love - no matter their numbers. Bigotry and discrimination are not justifiable by percentages. In America. there is no rule that says the smaller the minority, the more tolerable the prejudice against that minority.

That is the lesson of the march. As soon as it was over, however, the obstacles besetting lesbians and gays came quickly into focus:

[paragraph] The crew of an American Airlines jet carrying demonstrators from the march to Dallas/Fort Worth was so biased and ignorant that it threw all the pillows and blankets off the plane before taking off again.

[paragraph] Mayor Bill Crews of Melbourne, lowa. got a rude welcome when he returned from the march. Crews, who's been mayor of this town of 730 for nine years, openly discussed his homosexuality for the first time in a newspaper article in The Des Moines Register during the weekend of the march. He came home to find his house vandalized and the following slogans spray-painted on the outside walls: Melbourne Hates Gays, Queers Aren't Welcome, and No Faggots.

[paragraph] Some national columnists were scarcely more charitable. Joseph Sobran called homosexuality "a tragic disability." He wrote, "there is no need to punish a condition that is worse than any penalty we could inflict for it. But neither should normal people be punished for their aversion to it." Mike Royko, who has never said a kind word about feminism or gay rights. was his usual snide self. And Cal Thomas called for a return to Biblical morality.

These reactions to the march underscore the tenacity of homophobia, which is enshrined in state laws and expressed in any high-school hallway, neighborhood bar, or Pentagon corridor. The Right continues its hateful organizing against lesbians and gays. AIDS takes its daily terrible toll, even as Bill Clinton takes his sweet time in naming an AIDS czar. And millions of lesbians and gays remain in the closet. The climate is still so chilly that even The Advocate, the leading lesbian and gay magazine, mails its issues under wraps to its subscribers to shielf them from harassment.

So there is plenty of work to be done before the celebration of April 25 will be complete. But it sure was a glorious start.
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Title Annotation:April 25, 1993 Washington, D.C. march for homosexual rights
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:As millions cheer.
Next Article:'Too much freedom.' (human rights in Haiti ) (Editorial)

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