Conference President Webb Addresses Crowd of 200,000+ at Millennium March for Gay and Lesbian Rights
Jubi D. Heahley, Jr.
Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb was a featured speaker at the Millennium
March on Washington on Sunday, April 30. Various sources place crowd
estimates from 200,000 to 800,000 people, who converged on the nation's
capital to bring attention to issues that are important to the gay and
lesbian community. Those issues included calls for the passage of hates
crimes and employment non-discrimination legislation, changing the military's
"don't ask/don't tell" policy, and granting gays and lesbians the legal
right to marry.
"You should talk to
those people who want to occupy the public housing on 16th and Pennsylvania
because whoever occupies that public housing at 16th and Pennsylvania has
got to have the ability to work with all people, regardless of their race,
their creed, their sex orientation, their height, their weight, their size,"
Webb told the cheering crowd.
Openly gay Tempe Mayor
Neil Giuliano introduced Mayor Webb as a "great champion of civil rights."
Mayor Webb joined a star-studded roster of speakers, including several
openly gay celebrities: Ellen DeGeneres, the actress/comedian, and her
partner, actress Ann Heche; singer Melissa Etheridge; and tennis great
Martina Navratilova. In addition, previously recorded video messages from
both President Clinton and Vice President Gore were shown.
Mayor Wellington Webb's
record of support or gay and lesbian rights dates back to 1975, when he
tried to get the Colorado Legislature to bar discrimination in housing and
employment on the basis of sexual orientation.
"It is important that
you get energized today, but...you have to go home and fight to make sure
that you have equal citizenship," he said.
The United States
Conference of Mayors has long supported granting the protection of federal
hate crimes laws to all citizens, including lesbian and gay communities, and
adopted its first resolution calling for increased vigilance in preventing
hate crimes in 1991, citing statistics compiled by the National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force. Subsequent hates crimes resolutions were adopted by the
Conference in 1992 and 1994, designed to strengthen protections for all