"It will take artists to help us think more bravely."
So said Urvashi Vaid, LGBT activist and partner of comedian Kate Clinton (who also spoke), in her fiery speech at the National Equality March in Washington D.C. Sunday, in which an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people marched to end "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and to extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples.
"Courage requires telling inconvenient truth," Vaid went on to say, pointing out, "We must defeat the right wing culturally and politically! There can be no justice for LGBT until we do!"
Public support of equal rights from high-profile entertainers is one way to defeat the right wing culturally. To that end, here’s a look at some of the female entertainers — gay, straight and bisexual — who attended or spoke at the march.
Martina Navratilova, Urvashi Vaid, and Kate Clinton at the march
Openly gay spoken word artist Staceyann Chin blew many in the crowd away with her powerful speech, in which she said, "Equality is more than a word we lend to politicians to garner votes … I march today because I believe that change is not only possible, but that it’s inevitable."
After the march, Chin posted on her Facebook page that the event was “amazing!! A gazillion people showed up and we roared on the lawns of power. I’m still high from the experience.”
Out actress Cynthia Nixon led the Broadway contingent, which included the cast of Hair. “We are gathered here today from all over the U.S., and back home many of us are deeply embroiled in the particular local battles that we are fighting, but today is a national rally and when we walk away from here tonight, we need to walk away with a common national resolve,” Nixon told the crowd.
In a more humorous moment, Nixon also led marchers in singing "Going to the Chapel."
Also among the Broadway Impact contingent was Private Practice star (and prolific Broadway actress) Audra McDonald.
Audra McDonald with marcher Jason Miller
The weekend was kicked off by a fundraising dinner hosted by LGBT rights organization HRC, with President Obama giving the keynote speech in which he promised to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but didn’t provide details about when or how that would happen (read a transcript of his speech here):
My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians — whether in the office or on the battlefield. (Applause.) You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman. (Applause.) You will see a nation that’s valuing and cherishing these families as we build a more perfect union — a union in which gay Americans are an important part. I am committed to these goals. And my administration will continue fighting to achieve them.
Reactions to Obama’s speech have been mixed. HRC praised it, stating in a release, "This was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It’s simply unprecedented.”
But both lesbian Democratic political blogger Pam Spaulding and heterosexual Republican blogger Meghan McCain expressed skepticism about whether the speech was more than just words. Time magazine described it as a "bleak message" for the LGBT community that basically boiled down to, "I’m with you. But I can’t do much for you."