At 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, about 100 members of the Georgetown community gathered at Healy Gates. Rainbow flags, colorful beads and white ribbons supporting same-sex marriage were seen on the students who participated in the National Equality March.

The march, which advocated the legal protection of LGBTQ Americans, brought 200,000 to 250,000 people to the streets of D.C., according to the march’s Web site, though no official numbers have been made available. Organized by grassroots organizations from across the country, it pushed for equality in all legal matters under the 14th Amendment.

Leaders from the Georgetown University Student Association, GU Pride and the LGBTQ Resource Center endorsed the march. GU Pride participated with other groups in advertising and encouraging all students to take part in the march, according to GU Pride Co-Chair Carlos León (COL ’10).

archer Julia Maddera (COL ’13) said she valued the chance to speak out in favor of gay rights.

“As an American and an LGBT citizen, I was gratified to have the opportunity to march with others in solidarity, demanding our rights and showing our government what democracy looks [like],” she said.

Although the march officially began at 15th and I Streets, the group of Georgetown students added about 2.5 miles to the walk by starting at the front gates.

archers chanted: “What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!” as they walked down M Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, where students cheered and took pictures in front of the White House. Bystanders on the streets clapped and shouted in support of the marchers making their way toward the Capitol building.

“One of the most inspiring moments on our way to the Capitol was marching by the Newseum and seeing the balconies of the museum crowded with tourists cheering and applauding us,” Beth Goldberg (SFS ’12) said.

Long before it began, the National Equality March took on a national scope, according to NEM Student Outreach Coordinator Dave Valk.

“We’ve been organizing around the country. We had a national call to action that has been signed and endorsed by student leaders across the country and we have been physically going around the country going from campus to campus,” Valk said in a conference call.

Students from universities across the country participated in the day’s events.

“The tens of thousands of people who showed up to the march make it clear that we will no longer stand by and watch as our civil rights are denied to us. This was a historical event, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. But this was merely the beginning,” said Columbia University senior Sean Marzug-McCarthy of the march.

Some who marched to the Capitol West Lawn didn’t identify as gay, but showed their support nevertheless. A biracial couple stood on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign that read: “Our marriage was once illegal too.”

Those in attendance from the Georgetown community enjoyed the positive energy present the whole day.

“The energy at the march was purely contagious. I was so inspired by the fact that here we all were, standing up for the one thing that as a teenager I was ridiculed for and forced to feel ashamed of,” Teddy Semon (COL ’11) said.

After reaching the Capitol West Lawn at about 2 p.m., some marchers sat beneath the shade of the trees within feet of the Capitol steps, while others attempted to get as close as possible to the stage where a rally featuring multiple notable speakers would conclude the day.

The Washington, D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus performed a medley of songs in front of the Capitol steps, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” as the immense crowd awaited the speakers.

Award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon, famous for her role on the HBO series “Sex and the City,” had driven from New York City with about 1,400 New Yorkers from the Broadway and entertainment community that morning.

“When we walk away from here tonight, we need to walk away from here with a common national resolve, and that resolve must be that each one of us will do everything in his or her power in the coming months to see that [the Defense of Marriage Act] is finally repealed,” Nixon said.

DOMA – signed into law by former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) in 1996 – is the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The night before the march, President Obama told attendees of a Human Rights Campaign dinner, “I will end `Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ That’s my commitment to you.”

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibits any non-heterosexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation in the armed forces. Violators of this policy are typically discharged.

“I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples,” Obama said.

Obama spoke the same week that D.C. Councilman David Catania (SFS ’90, LAW ’94) introduced the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, which would allow same-sex marriages within the District.

Entertainer Lady Gaga, who performed the final concert of her latest tour at DAR Constitution Hall last week, also addressed the rally. After marching from her hotel to the West Lawn, she walked up to the podium to make her address and the cheering was the loudest it had been all day.

“I am inspired by the masses of the young people here today – the younger generation, my generation. We are the ones coming up in the world and we must continue to push this movement forward and close the gap. We must demand full equality for all,” she said.

Sunday’s march coincided with National Coming Out Day and kicked off this Coming Out Week at Georgetown, which is comprised of daily events sponsored by GU Pride and numerous other groups on campus to promote social awareness focusing on LGBTQ issues and diversity.

“It was one of the most crazy, beautiful and massive things that I’ve ever seen or been a part of, and it was truly something special, and it wasn’t just your average march or protest. It was couples, families, Georgetown students and all types of groups – they all had their voices heard,” Cheney Williams (COL ’12) said.

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