THE 2ND MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR LESBIAN AND GAY RIGHTS. More than a half million people (between 300,000 and 1,000,000, according to organizers…considerably more than the number that attended the current occupant of the White House’s inauguration) descended on the capital to participate in the second national March on Washington. Many of the marchers were angry over the government’s slow and inadequate response to the AIDS crisis, as well as the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision to uphold sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick.
With the first display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the 1987 march succeeded in bringing national attention to the impact of AIDS on Gay communities. In the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, a tapestry of nearly two thousand fabric panels offered a powerful tribute to the lives of some of those who had been lost in the pandemic.
The march also called attention to anti-Gay discrimination, as approximately 800 people were arrested in front of the Supreme Court two days later in the largest civil disobedience action ever held in support of the rights of Lesbians, Gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people.
The 1987 March on Washington also sparked the creation of what became known as BiNet U.S.A. and the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization (LLEGÓ), the first national groups for bisexuals and GLBTQ Latinas and Latinos, respectively. Prior to the march, bisexual activists circulated a flyer entitled “Are You Ready for a National Bisexual Network?” that encouraged members of the community to be part of the first bisexual contingent in a national demonstration. Approximately 75 bisexuals from across the U. S. participated and began laying the groundwork for an organization that could speak to the needs of bi-identified people and counter the animus against bisexuals that was commonplace in both Lesbian and Gay communities and the dominant society.
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. The date of the march, October 11th, 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.”