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Lambda Lore

The 1993 March on Washington, and … Logan

Written by Ben Williams

On April 25, 1993, there was another March on Washington. This time for “Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.” The Utah planning committee and contingency was orchestrated by gay activist Val Mansfield. However, I wrote in my journal at the time that “Dale Sorenson and David Nelson are certainly Channel 2’s media queens when it comes to news coverage of the March on Washington. Cameramen had pictures of them packing up and leaving for Washington and pictures of them arriving. It was actually good coverage but kind of funny also, as I know those two.”

A Deseret News account reported that about 100 activists from Utah went to the march. The article also mentioned gay activists Dale Sorenson, who was a Utah delegate to the Democratic National Convention last year, Kathy Worthington, and Sara Hamblin, who “married” each other in the mass “wedding” in front of Internal Revenue Service headquarters, and Val Mansfield who was on the National March Committee, and who also “married” his partner in front of the IRS at the mass wedding of over a thousand couples.

The article reported that some of the group of gay Utahns were “pleasantly surprised” after meeting with Republican Sen. Bob Bennett that he said he would support gay rights bills, depending on the wording, because “he feels no one should suffer discrimination.”

Here in Utah, there was a rally on the day before the Sunday march, at the Salt Lake Federal Building. It was planned by union supporter and  gay activist, Calvin Noyes to support the goals of the March on Washington and to show support for lifting the ban on gays in the military.

I wrote in my journal, “Nearly 150 people showed up to hear speeches from Ed Mayne, president of Utah’s AFL-CIO, Lenoris Bush, who is the vice-director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Calvin Noyes, Chris Brown director of the Anti Violence Project, and Melisa Sillitoe, director of the Utah Stonewall Center, all who gave pep talks for gay civil rights.

“The crowd was a good size but not very energetic. Perhaps the weather had something to do with it. It had rained buckets last night and had barely let up just before the rally began. Still, you would hardly know it was a Gay and Lesbian Rally as there wasn’t even a rainbow flag present.”

I could not attend the March on Washington as I did in 1987 because I could not get the time off, being a school teacher. However, I did attend a protest rally in Logan that day. The following account is of the protest of the Logan Herald Journal for its refusal to run Lynn Johnston’s comic strip “For Better or Worse.”  The strip featured a character named Lawrence Poirier who came out as gay. The strip generated controversy with readers who were opposed to homosexuality and threatening to cancel newspaper subscriptions as they believed that a homosexual character was highly inappropriate for a family-oriented newspaper comic strip.

This is what I wrote: “I made an arrangement with Melissa Sillitoe and Michelle Davies to go with them to Logan for the Cache Valley Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s first ever march and rally. They were protesting that the Logan Herald Journal had dumped the “For Better or Worse” comic strip from their paper because of its homosexual theme when one of its characters came out as gay.

“Anyhow, the rally was at 2 in the afternoon so we left at noon to be there on time and my, was it festive. I was impressed. Perhaps 200 or more gays and lesbians along with their supporters showed up on the county courthouse lawn carrying balloons, rainbow flags, and multi-colored signs and posters. It really put Salt Lake’s rally to shame. The media was out in droves and I had to ask cameramen not to put my face on camera, although I spoke to reporters.

“The speakers were excellent, especially Rebecca Wheeler from the National Organization for Women and Darryl Ferman representing the American Civil Liberties Union. Ken Johnson, this gorgeous blond man, was the protest rally’s organizer. Ken said he was only expecting 50 or so people so he was grateful for the turnout. A lot of folks from Salt Lake City came up to lend support.

“After the speeches, we all marched the half mile to the Herald Journal’s office building. Along the way, this very sweet little old lady came up to me and said she was the mother of a gay son who died horribly last year of AIDS. She said she knew that the Lord loved him and the Lord loves us. That was a very compassionate thing for this woman to say. She also warned us that there were a lot of hateful people gathered over at the Herald Journal. She said that they professed to be Christians but she couldn’t stand to be over there because they were so full of venom and hate. She said that she could sense that our group was full of love. I thanked her and said that her true Christianity is what will keep many gay people in the faith.

“Anyway, over at the Herald Journal, there were nearly 300 people as far as I could tell, acting as a counter-demonstration. They were spewing hate jargon at us and carrying signs trying to show where in the Bible it says ‘God hates Gays’. The crowd was made up of mostly skinheads and cowboy trash who tried to block the marchers, but the police were out in full force to make the bigots let us pass.

“As the hateful catcalls were hurled at us, I took notes, copied down the vile slogans, and looked into the faces of the folks who hated us. They wore red armbands, which are what the Nazis and Hitler’s youth wore as one of our speakers had pointed out. If we are so different from them why do they have to wear armbands to tell themselves apart from us?

“As I walked through the jeers and taunts, I thought to myself, ‘Though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil’ to bolster my nervousness. We all had our anxious moments fearing that the police might not be able to keep some nut from shooting at us.

“I said to this older woman who was marching with us that this really does draw a line in the sand between good and evil and I know which side I want to be on.

“Needless to say it was an anxious and yet exhilarating day. It was a truly historic occasion and I’m so glad I was here to stand with these courageous Loganites, especially since I couldn’t be in Washington, D.C.  It’s one thing to be marching far from home and another to be marching in Logan.”

The full set of strips of For Better or Worse‘s gay coming out series is here.

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Ben Williams

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