- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

Thousands of homosexual rights supporters will march and rally on the National Mall on Sunday to call for equality with a "mainstream, family focus," organizers said.

The "Millennium March on Washington for Equality" will be a show of political muscle and a "civil rights demonstration demanding … the same employment, marital and societal opportunities [for homosexuals] as any other citizens," march organizers said in a press release.

"We want to be part of turning out the largest [homosexual] vote in U.S. history … and prove we are 5 percent of the vote," said Dianne Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the event.

"We will use [the rally] to showcase the issues that gay Americans face and a call to action for our voters."

President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore are expected to deliver videotaped remarks to the gathering, who will listen to other speakers and performers on a stage near the Capitol from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Rock artist Melissa Etheridge is scheduled to give a free concert near the end of the rally.

Among the more than 50 scheduled speakers: D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams; D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat; Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat; Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat; as well as Reps. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, and Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, who are both avowed homosexuals.

In addition, the families of James Byrd Jr., a black man dragged to death behind a truck by three whites in Jasper, Texas, in 1998, and Matthew Shepard, a homosexual Wyoming student beaten to death by two men in 1998, will attend the march and rally to call for hate crimes laws.

The event's aim is to get more people involved in the struggle for equality and to bring out a new generation of activists, said Ms. Hardy-Garcia, noting that speeches and events will focus on families.

A "Millennium Festival" along Pennsylvania Avenue NW on Saturday and Sunday will feature a family area and "cyber-pavilions." While the weekend's itinerary includes after-hours parties and gatherings at local bars, a "Family Pride March" is set for Sunday and a teen dance for Saturday night at the festival.

Several religious services are planned for the weekend, including a giant same-sex "wedding" Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial.

The march has several corporate sponsors including United Airlines, Showtime Network, America Online and Bell Atlantic.

The rally also is billed as having the largest heterosexual attendance ever, and 25 percent to 35 percent of the speakers are heterosexual, Ms. Hardy-Garcia said.

The tone of the upcoming rally differs sharply from the last homosexual rights march in Washington, when C-SPAN was sharply criticized for the sexually explicit images it aired in its live coverage seven years ago this month.

Nevertheless, C-SPAN plans to present six hours of live coverage, from noon to 6 p.m., according to network spokeswoman Erica Robinson.

Nothing will be purged, she said Thursday. "Whatever happens, our cameras will be there. We do not censor."

C-SPAN's 1993 coverage included scenes of topless women, homosexual embraces, gay men in leather harnesses and cross-dressers.

Published reports at the time cited a lesbian and standup comic who used a four-letter vulgarity in saying she would like to make love to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A C-SPAN spokeswoman at the time said the network received three to five times more calls about the march and rally than it usually received for other events.

Most of the calls were negative, she acknowledged.

Other networks plan to cover the march and rally but expect to use only snippets of footage as part of later news broadcasts.

"At this time, we're not slated to take in huge live chunks of the march," said Libbie Schlather, a CNN spokeswoman said.

"This will be the first march ever that's Webcast worldwide," said Ms. Hardy-Garcia.

Mr. Clinton missed the 1993 march: He was in Boston that day for a speech. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, attended the march and read a letter from the president to the crowd estimated at 300,000.

Mr. Clinton won't be at this year's march and rally either, Ms. Hardy-Garcia noted. "But the president sent a very powerful videotape message in which he touts his record" of supporting legislation against discrimination based on sexual orientation and of appointing openly gay people, she said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he will be delivering a foreign policy speech in Boston on Sunday.

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