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The midday Metro cars coming into D.C. on Saturday, Nov. 15, were filled with supporters of marriage equality for same-sex couples. The riders carried signs declaring ”Equality for All,” ”No to H8,” and similar messages on their way to the Capitol to join a quickly called protest against California’s Proposition 8.
Though it may have come together quickly, organizers say it attracted about 5,000 people. Proposition 8, a state-constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, trumps an earlier California Supreme Court ruling extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians, was approved by a majority of California voters in the past election.
Reacting to that loss, D.C. joined other major cities Nov. 15 in protesting, thanks in part to the organizing efforts of Kellan Baker, a graduate student from George Washington University, and an online entity, JoinTheImpact.com.
”I’m originally from California, but I live in D.C. now and I was interested in being involved in whatever was going on [here],” says Baker. ”[Join the Impact] put out a call for volunteers to organize in their local cities. I put my name forward for D.C. and was sort of incorporated into the national organizing team.”
Baker says he spread the word about the protest through the Internet, specifically the social-networking Web site Facebook.
Among those at the local rally and march was 19-year-old Caitlin Macintyre, who spoke to the crowd about her two dads.
”I am a proud daughter of two gay men who have been together for 10 years, who I love very much,” she said Saturday. ”All my life I’ve been told that my family is ‘less than,’ that we’re not good enough, that we’re not whole. But I’m here to say that we are whole. … It’s not enough for us to love ourselves, we have to teach others how to love us. … We have to stop listening to messages of hate. We need to go to communities that don’t want us, and we have to make sure that we speak to them.”
The crowd stepped off from an area at the northern side of the Capitol Reflection Pool at about 2 p.m. and marched down Constitution Avenue toward the White House, then rallied in Lafayette Square in front of the White House.
Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier was on hand, reckoning that the rain did not deter protesters.
”It’s unfortunate that the rain decided to open up on everybody right about the time that everybody started marching. If it’s any consolation, it got my motorcades at the same time,” she said while directing marchers to the square. ”What a great crowd. There are a lot of folks out here.”
Despite the rain, Gwen from Rockville, who asked that her last name not be used, kept on marching.
”It was beautiful to see so many people come out even in the soaking rain. I don’t know what the number count was, but this has been an incredible affirmation,” she said. ”Gay people, straight people — it’s been beautiful.
”I think the extensive protests across the nation are sending a very clear message to the people who financed the Proposition 8 amendment that we are not going to stand for this crap anymore. We are not going to roll over and take it. Gay people will stand up again, as we have in the past.”
Travis Ballie, a student at American University, used a megaphone to convey an encouraging message to marchers at Lafayette Square.
”We may not have won in some places,” he said, ”but we are winning, and will continue to win, but only if you do three things: stay active, thank an organizer, [and] become an organizer.”
Bailey thanked ”people of faith who are our allies and who are also in our community.”
That included Azariah Southworth, former host of a Christian television show, who came out in April.
”A year ago I would not have been here,” Southworth said. ”A year ago I was hosting a Christian TV show on the largest Christian network in the world and … when I came out this past April … I was ostracized by the people who called me their friend, people that call themselves Christians. It was hard, it was a struggle, … but then Jesus showed me who he was and that he is true love and that God is not concerned with who we love, but how we love.”
As Southworth spoke, the large crowd who had marched to Lafayette Square chanted the same chorus heard sporadically throughout the day: ”What do we want? Equality!”
Chris Millis, who lives in the District, said it was a message heard loud and clear.
”We got a message across, especially to the people who were honking and waving, that we’re here and that we want the same rights that everybody else does.”
Tyrone Hanley, president of D.C.’s Youth Pride Alliance, was pleased with the number of people who braved the wind and rain for the sake of equality.
”Usually we don’t get this kind of turnout unless it’s a High Heel Race, so it’s really exciting to see gay people and our allies coming together on an event that’s not a social event, but coming here for our rights.”
A couple days after the event, given a chance to digest the Nov. 15 march and rally, Baker called it ”incredible.”
”Especially because there was actually a tornado watch. A tornado had touched down in North Carolina and it was coming up to us,” he said. ”That was the weather front that hit us, but we hardly lost anybody. I was very happy when we got to the park at the end and the skies cleared for a bit.”