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Students fight for nation-wide equality

By Jesse Zhang
Published: October 2009

Five South students left Massachusetts on the evening of October 10, enduring a nine-hour bus ride to Washington D.C. before joining 200,000 people in the National Equality March on October 11. Although labeled “Equality, the march specifically focuses on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) rights.

The approximately three-hour march started at noon as participants marched past the White House and the National Mall before finally arriving at the Capitol Building, where a rally took place for several hours. Rally speakers included recording artist Lady Gaga, actress Cynthia Nixon, and infantry officer Dan Choi.

Student participants included seniors Ben Chesler and Sarah Pincus, juniors Rachel Feynman, and sophomores Karen Shibuya and Ilana Sivachenco. Senior Jacob Liverman and History teachers Robert Parlin and Michael Kozuch joined the five students at the March later that day.

“Marches energize people to get involved in local campaigns, lobby legislature, and donate money to gay rights causes, Parlin said.

Parlin has participated in approximately 20 marches since 1987, the same year he became a South faculty member. He estimates that about 70 percent of marchers were under the age of 30, the most “young people he has ever seen at one march.

According to Parlin, the march intended to energize Americans, draw attention to the lack of action on the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996.

The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy prohibits homosexuals from serving openly in the military; the Defense of Marriage Act states that no state needs to treat a relationship between homosexuals as a marriage and that the federal government does not recognize marriages between homosexuals.

Chesler and junior and Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) president Rebecca Penzias tried to motivate South students to take part in the march by putting up several posters in hallways.

Chesler first heard about the march in August from former graduate Madeline Burrows and participated in a meeting in late September discussing what community members can do to make a difference for the LGBTQI community.

The meeting was organized by Join the Impact, an organization fighting for full LGBTQI equality through outreach, education, and demonstration.

Chesler believes that many students are supportive of LGBTQI rights but do not have the opportunity to make a difference nationally.

“This will be the civil rights fight of our generation, he said.

Parlin feels the greatest challenge for students wanting to attend was to get permission from parents, who may have had safety concerns.

Pincus thought the march was successful by the sheer number of supporters who fought for LGBTQI rights. Pincus believes that an important aspect of the march was energizing participants to further spread the movement in their own communities.

“The youth got to lead the march, Pincus said. “It’s our generation that is going to make a difference; it’s up to us to decide what the future will look like.

A phone bank will take place during J-Block today where students can help convince voters to vote “No on Maine’s Proposition 1, which may repeal LGBTQI marriage equality.

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