Gay History Month – October 11th, 1987: The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights – Videos



The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was one of the largest LGBT political rallies that ever took place in Washington, D.C. and took place  on October 11, 1987.  Its success, size and scope has led it to be referred to by many in gay history as “The Great March”.

The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, drafted documents to extant LGBT organizations soliciting interest in a new march. The response was favorable, and the two organized an initial planning meeting in New York City on July 16, 1986, where it was decided that the march would be held in 1987.  Representatives from all known LGBT organizations were subsequently invited to a national conference in New York City on November 14–16, 1986 where they would discuss the politics, logistics and organization of the event. The final organizational meeting for the march took place in Atlanta on May 2–3, 1987.

The delegates at the West Hollywood convention chose several primary demands to serve as the platform for the 1987 March. Each of these demands was supplemented with a broader list of demands which extended beyond the scope of single-issue LGBT concerns. In doing so, the organizers wished to underscore their recognition that oppression of one group affects oppression of all groups. The seven primary demands were:

  • The legal recognition of lesbian and gay relationships.
  • The repeal of all laws that make sodomy between consenting adults a crime.
  • A presidential order banning discrimination by the federal government.
  • Passage of the Congressional lesbian and gay civil rights bill.
  • An end to discrimination against people with AIDS, ARC, HIV-positive status or those perceived to have AIDS. Massive increases in funding for AIDS education, research, and patient care. Money for AIDS, not for war.
  • Reproductive freedom, the right to control our own bodies, and an end to sexist oppression.

The march itself was part of six days of activities, with a mass wedding and protest in front of the Internal Revenue Service on October 10, and, three days later, a civil disobedience act in front of the Supreme Court building protesting its rulings upholding Bowers v. Hardwick and was led by Cesar Chavez and Eleanor Smeal, who were followed by people with AIDS and their supporters.

Speakers at the rally included:

* Former National Organization for Women president Eleanor Smeal
* Union president and Latino civil rights figure Cesar Chavez
* Actor and comedian Whoopi Goldberg
* Jesse Jackson, then a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President.

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

Police on the scene estimated numbers during the actual march to be closer to half a million.

With AIDS at the forefront of everyones’ concern, the march marked the public debut of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt occupied the equivalent of two city blocks, and included 1,920 panels commemorating more than 2,000 persons who had died of AIDS. Since then, the AIDS Memorial Quilt has become the world’s largest community art project, encompassing 1.3 million square feet and commemorating the lives of over 94,000 people who died of AIDS.

But even the quilt couldn’t break through the national reticence to discuss the epidemic or the concerns of gay people. Despite the enormity of the gatherings, the three national news magazines — Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report — neglected to mention any of it, which longtime advocate Barbara Gittings described as “an appalling example of media blindness.”

PLEASE watch the videos below filmed by pioneering Gay Cable Network. The footage gives a glimpse into and understanding of what the LGBT rights movement and activism from the mid-late 80’s was like which is nothing like what we have today.

And perhaps should return to.




7 thoughts on “Gay History Month – October 11th, 1987: The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights – Videos

  1. I was the media co-director for the March, not the quilt which was a separate organization. The Park Police told us that for every block of the Mall we filled up, that was 250,000 people. We filled up three blocks going back to the start of the quilt. So as many as 750,000. Our coverage was decent for the time, especially the Supreme Court demonstration. We did contact ALL of the mainstream press and there is no excuse for the major magazines to not have covered the event.

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