Last week, people across the nation joined together during National Coming Out Week to celebrate, support and raise awareness for LGBT issues. National Coming Out Week included many events and campaigns that honored the courage it takes to be open about one's sexual orientation and identity, and provided support for those who feel forced to hide their identities for fear of ridicule.
One such event was the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner, where President Obama spoke to reaffirm his vow to repeal both the ""Don't Ask, Don't Tell"" military policy as well as the Defense of Marriage Act. The dinner fell on the eve of the National Equality March, as thousands of people prepared to march to the nation's Capitol to demand equal rights for all people.
The National Equality March represented the first gay rights march held in Washington D.C. since 1993, signifying a historic call to action with almost 200,000 people in the march. In addition to the rally, the weekend also included trainings and workshops aimed at helping young activists learn how to get more involved and become stronger advocates of LGBT rights.
We had the amazing opportunity to attend the march, along with about 200 others from the UW-Madison and nearby schools. Although the long bus ride was not the ideal form of travel, for us nothing could dampen the amazing experience we had while in D.C. The day began at 11 a.m. with marchers congregating at McPherson Square to get organized. At noon, the march kicked off with the student coalition leading the procession.
The already energized crowd grew even louder as people began chanting and calling for equal rights. As the march continued for over two miles, past the White House and up to the Capitol, the never wavering chants and cheers continued. Once we reached the Capitol, a large rally commenced with a dynamic range of speakers, from Judy Shepard, to Cynthia Nixon, to Dan Choi, to Lady Gaga. All of them conveyed the same message: now is our time, and we must lead the movement for change.
The most inspiring part of the rally was the people surrounding us. While there were still a significant number of older men and women, the vast majority of marchers were college-aged students. Additionally, the students were not just people who identify as LGBT, but young activists who care about the cause. The knowledge and experiences of the older activists, paired with the energy that students were able to bring to the Capitol, felt truly overwhelming and exhilarating.
But perhaps the most exciting moment of the rally was when Lady Gaga herself took the stage. Leading up to her speech, the crowd grew with excitement, rushing forward to get a better view of the pop icon. As she spoke, she directly addressed President Obama, shouting into the microphone, ""Are you listening?!"" generating anticipation among the crowd.
While many criticize President Obama for not immediately driving equal rights policies in the same-sex marriage debate, we must remember that he is working in a recession and a broken health care system, trying to make progress on many different issues critical to the well-being of our country.
This means it is up to us, the youth of America, to drive the force of the movement. Our generation voted Obama into office, and now we're bringing that same momentum to the LGBT rights movement. This is our time to make a difference. Our moment is now. It is time to fulfill the promise of equality guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens of the United States.
Maggie Bahrmasel and Evan Giesemann are both meembers of the College Democrats. We welcome all feedback. Please send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.