Gay-rights march has organizers festive, angry

April 20, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

Gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and their families, friends and supporters, will be among the thousands of Marylanders expected to participate in Sunday's March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.

"The mood is an odd combination of festive and angry," says Liz Magill, the Maryland delegate to the Mid-Atlantic organizing committee. "We're excited, we think it will be a lot of fun, but we are coming to express anger and frustration for not being treated like everyone else.

"This is a chance for us to make more people know that discrimination really affects us on a day-to-day basis. . . . And then for some people, I think it's a big party."

The march, which is intended to win support for gay-rights legislation and increased spending on AIDS research, is the centerpiece of several days of activity. Plans include a mass wedding for partners of the same sex, a reception for gay and lesbian parents, a student conference, lobbying on Capitol Hill, religious services, musical events, and a drag show.

Controversy over ending the ban on gays in the military and over a Colorado amendment that prohibits anti-discrimination laws has pushed gay rights into the limelight, contributing to the number of would-be marchers, organizers say.

"There's incredible enthusiasm especially now that it's getting closer. I think everyone has high expectations," says Tim Mason, a founding member of the state organizing committee. "We started planning this two years ago and if God had sent us a message telling us when to plan a march, we couldn't have picked a better time because these issues -- the military, Colorado, AIDS -- are in the public eye."

A cross section of groups and people have endorsed the march, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, movie director John Waters, Baltimore's chapter of the National Organization for Women, People With Aids Coalition, several student alliances, AIDS Action Baltimore, and the Baltimore-based Health Education Resource Center.

Nationally, the supporters include the NAACP, American Hebrew Congregation and the United Church of Christ.

Fifteen buses are scheduled to leave Sunday morning from Memorial Stadium and Mondawmin Mall, making two or three runs each, says Paul Garcia, a member of the state committee. Buses will also run Saturday. Round-trip fare is $5, although some free rides will be available.

Fund-raisers -- including balls and galas held at bars -- and T-shirt sales raised about $20,000, Mr. Garcia says. About one-third of the money went to the national march committee and the rest is being used for a statewide advertising campaign and to subsidize the bus rides.

Several local bars also are sponsoring transportation that would allow people to remain later in Washington. For example, the Le Salon and Customhouse Saloon has a bus leaving at 10 a.m. Sunday and returning at 2 a.m. Monday. "We have little flags that say 'Le Salon Pride Equals Power,' " says Ned Phillips, manager at the downtown Baltimore establishment. "It's a pride thing and fight for rights."

At least 50 members of Baltimore's NOW chapter plan to go to Washington, says Laura Newman, chapter president. Although many of the women expected to attend aren't lesbians, she says, lesbian issues are an important part of the NOW agenda.

A group of about 40 Roman Catholic priests, nuns and lay people from the New Way Ministry of Mount Rainier also plan to march. The organization's mission is to persuade the Catholic Church "to take a more active role in civil rights for gays and lesbians," says Greg Link, director.

Colin Chellman, president of the Johns Hopkins Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said about 30 to 40 students, faculty and friends will march. "It seems like people are waking up from the '80s. They are burstingat the seams to make a noise, to have some activity," he says.

And for some people, such as Silver Spring resident Ursula Rochman-Taub, the march will be a family event. The financial administrator, her husband, daughter, son-in-law and nephew plan to march with the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays contingent. "I find it horrible that somebody should have to disclose his sexual preference on a questionnaire or in an interview -- this is absolutely unacceptable to me," she says.

Organizers hope that, in addition to speeding passage of gay-rights legislation, the march will have other lasting effects nationwide, Mr. Mason says. "You are bringing people together and are giving them a sense of community and then sending them back to their homes with an organizational structure and contacts so that people can take those resources and work on their local- and state-level issues."

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