WASHINGTON (AP)--It's been a busy week already for gay and lesbianactivists, what with a new civil-unions bill becoming law in Vermontand the Supreme Court hearing arguments over whether the Boy Scouts canbar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.

To top it off, they've got a march on the National Mall.

That's where organizers of the Millennium March on Washington hope300,000 people will show up Sunday in support of gay, lesbian, andbisexual rights, the fourth such march on the mall in the last 21 years.

Diane Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the march, has been planningthe event for years, hoping it will mobilize supporters into animportant voting bloc this presidential election year.

However, it is not without its critics. And the most vocal ones areother gay- and lesbian-rights groups who say the event has littlegrassroots support.

"There's many things to celebrate and a lot of work to yet to do,"Hardy-Garcia said. "One of the reasons we do marches on Washington issomething that is important to the gay community--the real need tobring more people into this movement."

To do that, they're staging a concert featuring Garth Brooks and MelissaEthridge, rallying between the Washington Monument and the Capitol andbroadcasting the events over the Internet.

Other notable guests include the parents of Matthew Shepard, a21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student who died in October 1998after being beaten into a coma and tied to a fence; and the mother ofPfc. Barry Winchell, who was slain at Fort Campbell, Ky., after rumorssurfaced that he was gay.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can so that no one has to be afraidto serve their country anymore," said Patricia Kutteles of Kansas City,Mo., who has said she will sue the Army for $1.8 million in the death ofher son.

"I want my son's death to count for something," she said. "I don'twant his death to have just been in vain. I want something good andpositive to come out of it."

Critics praise the intentions of the event but question how it has beenorganized. William Dobbs, a member of a committee of activists formed tooppose the march, says decisions about the event were made by people inWashington who failed to garner enough support on the local level andfrom minority groups.

"Celebrities draw attention, but in the end it's supposed to be a civil-rights march," Dobbs said. "It shouldn't be just a feel-good event. But those past marches came about when there was a real community consensus to march on the capital and push the government for changes."

New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, whose Manhattan district ishome to a big portion of the city's gay and lesbian population, urgedher constituents to stay away to concentrate on efforts closer to home.The National Association of Black and White Men Together rescheduled aboard meeting originally set for this weekend in Washington to show itsopposition to the march.

"How do we advance this movement that really is diverse if we have a99.9% audience this weekend that is white?" asked Mandy Carterof Tampa, Fla., who helped organize the 1987 and 1993 gay-rights marchesin Washington. "For a lot of people of color, where are our faces andvoices?"

March supporters dismiss the criticism.

"There have been disagreements with every social-justice movement andpast marches," said David Smith, spokesman for the Human RightsCampaign. "The controversy right now is not as important as the factthat we are all coming together to work for the common goal."

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus