WASHINGTON: TENS of thousands of activists marched in Washington to show President Barack Obama and Congress that they are impatient with what they consider piecemeal progress on gay rights. They are ready to fight at the federal level for across-the-board equality, including for the right to marry and serve in the military.Key votes on same-sex marriage are coming up in Washington, DC, and Maine, and Mr Obama promised on Saturday to end the ”don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that forces gay and lesbian members of the armed forces to keep their sexual orientation a secret.But organisers of the National Equality March and participants said they wanted to shift the political effort towards seeking equality in all states, rather than settling for local and state-level victories.”We’re not settling,” said Cleve Jones, co-chairman of the march and founder of the Names Project, the memorial quilt that recognises Americans who have died from HIV/AIDS. ”There’s no such thing as a fraction of equality. We want equal protection under the law.”The march on Sunday was co-ordinated by Equality Across America, a group that formed this year. Organisers said they represented those who wanted immediate fundamental change in the legal status of gays, as opposed to those who thought patience was needed as legal obstacles were overcome.Some in the latter group are political veterans, such as the Republican congressman Barney Frank, who is the highest-ranking openly gay political figure in the country. Last week Mr Frank said he thought the march was ”useless”, a remark that was criticised at the rally.”How many more tears should be shed before some politicians in a back room can decide it is convenient to join us and fight for our freedom?” asked David Mixner, a longtime activist who spoke at the rally.Attendees expressed complicated feelings about Mr Obama. Nearly every person interviewed said he or she had voted for him, but many said they were disappointed by what they saw as a lack of action on key gay rights issues, such as letting gays serve openly in the military.Thousands of people marched from McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the march ended, people gathered on Capitol Hill for a rally.Many supporters identified themselves as heterosexual, carrying signs with slogans such as ”I’m not queer but I’m here.”Sue Null, 72, walked near the White House holding a sign that said ”My gay children deserve rights.”The retired teacher said she travelled nine hours from North Carolina with dozens of others to represent children who were too busy working to make the trip. Of her four children, two are gay, she said.”Every parent wants their children to have opportunities. But that’s not what our Government is about. I’ve seen nothing from the Obama Administration.”The Washington Post
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