Thousands of homosexuals and their supporters took to the streets in more than a half dozen cities across the country over the weekend, marching to publicize their demands for equal rights for gays.
The numbers of the marchers ranged from several thousand to the 80 who marched in Providence, R.I., on Saturday afternoon. About 30 showed up for a rally titled the 3rd Annual Heart of America Gay Pride Festival in Kansas City.
There were also marches and demonstrations in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco. And in Dade County, Fla., where voters heeded a campaign by singer Anita Bryant and repealed a homosexual anti-discrimination ordinance, two marches took place.
In San Francisco, interest in the parade was spurred by the slaying of a city gardener outside his home by four young men who shouted “faggot, faggot” as they stabbed him 15 times, organizers said.
“The brutal slaying of Robert Hillsborough dramatically illustrates how desperate the need is for us to challenge the hate-mongering of those who exploit people’s differences for personal gain,” said spokeswoman Kitty Cone.
Susan Hummer, program director for the Gay Community Services Center in Los Angeles, said the turnout in support of homosexual rights was in direct reaction to Miss Bryant’s campaign.
“There are people who have not marched before who say they will march today as a statement to the city and the country that we won’t stop existing,” she said before the demonstration began Sunday in Hollywood.
Local organizers of the marches said they were not coordinated nationally by any specific group, but the demonstrations generally had the theme of “Gay Pride Day.” Paul Hardman, chairman of the Pride Foundation in San Francisco, said the parades commemorated a battle between police and homosexuals at a gay gathering place in Greenwich Village in New York in 1969.
“Gay and Proud,” “Say No to Anita” and “We are the People Our Parents Warned Us About,” read some of the signs carried by 2,000 marchers in a parade kicking off Seattle’s Gay Pride Week.
Mayor Wes Uhlman proclaimed the week-long celebration in honor of the contributions of the city’s homosexual citizens. Parade organizers said they were surprised and pleased with the turnout on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
“This parade is as meaningful and valid for us as a St Patrick’s Day parade is for the Irish,” C.F. Brydon, president of a gay rights group, said prior to the march. On Friday, an aide to Uhlman said public reaction was “mixed” to the mayor’s proclaiming June 25-July 1 Gay Pride Week.
“The tone of many of the calls has been that the mayor is condoning immorality,” aide Michael Eagan said. “Most of the complaints appear to be on religious grounds.”
Eagan said some of the calls and letters supported the mayor’s statement. In New York, police estimated that from 10,000 to 45,000 supporters of homosexual rights marched up Fifth Avenue — a crowd that stretched for 28 blocks — Sunday afternoon to a rally in Central Park. It was the eighth annual march staged by a coalition of gay rights groups.
“The turnout is greater than expected. Anita Bryant has helped us,” said Bishop Robert Clement of the Church of the Beloved Disciple. The church in New York is a Catholic-oriented church for homosexuals.