Today in labor history: The “Great March” for LGBT rights

On this day in 1987, the Second National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights took place in Washington, D.C., a political rally the size and impact of which caused those in the LGBT community to regard it as the “Great March.”

Desire for a second march was fueled by a number of ongoing issues during this period, including the AIDS epidemic (and the Reagan administration’s initially poor understanding of the crisis) and a controversial Supreme Court decision that criminalized sodomy between two consenting gay adults in the privacy of their Georgia home.

Those taking part in the march outlined the need for recognition of LGBT relationships, repealing invasive laws like the one in Georgia, and an end to discrimination against those with AIDS. The rally even ventured into issues beyond the immediate spectrum of LGBT concerns, such as ending racism in America and apartheid in South Africa.

Activists taking part included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Latino civil rights figure Cesar Chavez, and then-presidential candidate and civil rights defender Jesse Jackson. The total number of marchers was estimated to be about half a million.

“Let’s find a common ground of humanity,” Jackson told the crowd. “We share the desire for life, liberty, love, the pursuit of happiness, and equal protection under the law. Let’s not dwell on distinctions.”

Photo: Nancy Pelosi at the 1987 Second National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.   Flickr


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