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Students storm Student Union for LGBT rights

Today, Thursday October 8 at noon, students from University of Massachusetts, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges will be marching across the UMass campus to raise awareness for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Those marching will be meeting at the Student Union at 12 p.m. and the event will be approximately an hour-and-a-half long. Students and community members armed with strong words and stronger emotions will be rallying for LGBT equality.

This march serves multiple purposes; to raise awareness on campus of the issue, as well as to rally students to come to Washington D.C. this Sunday for the National Equality March.

When asked why she supports students marching in the Rally for Equality on Thursday, UMass Sophomore Kellie Quinn, 19, of Framingham, Mass., said she wants to fight for civil liberties and incite others to advocate for their beliefs.

“It is important to stand up for your rights and the rights of others. Silence and complacency are the fuel for injustice.” She also hopes, “we’ll be an inspiration to someone and give people a taste of what it means to fight for your ideas, values, and beliefs,” Quinn said.

Another UMass sophomore, Andrea Gonzalez, 19, of Gardner, Mass. is marching for a few reasons.

“I feel this march is the opportunity of a lifetime. Also, this march is truly revolutionary. I have never been around this many supporters at once and I feel that this could be a fantastic learning experience,” she said.

Gary Lapon, 24, Springfield, Mass, a local LGBT activist and organizer of the trip to Washington D.C. believes that not only LGBT students but those of all sexual orientations need to get on the bus to Washington D.C because LGBT rights can only be achieved with support from people of all orientations.

“We have to unite to win struggles for social and economic justice, and unless those who are not a part of the LGBT community stand in solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters, unity will be impossible,” said Lapon.

A group of over a 100 will be leaving around 1 a.m. Sunday morning and will return to campus around 3 a.m. Monday. Tickets for the bus are $60 but, if financial assistance is needed, students can contact Lapon.

While there were less than 10 seats available on the bus from Amherst as of Wednesday night, if a student wishes to attend they can email Lapon at equalitywmass@gmail.com. Lapon can put students in contact with other groups in the area attending the march or link people to carpool together.

The March on Washington will be held on October 10-11 with keynote speakers including Cleve Jones, the creator of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt who worked with the openly gay politician Harvey Milk, as well as Julian Bond, a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement and a chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The march will also host musicians including the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, a highly respected performing arts group.

Well-known celebrities including Bryan Batt, an actor in the AMC series “Mad Men”, Scott Fujita a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, and singer Lady Gaga have endorsed the mission of the march. The march has also been endorsed by members of congress, professors across the nation, religious leaders and veterans groups. The Broadway show “Hair” has cancelled its Sunday matinee show on October 11 to allow the cast and production crew to attend.

As the National Equality March website states, “We guaranteed equal protection by the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. Free and equal people do not bargain for or prioritize our rights, so we are coming to D.C. this October 10-11 to demand equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states’.

Specific rights that citizens are fighting for include the right to marriage, to be openly gay in the military, same-sex adoption, to donate blood or sperm and anti-discrimination in the work force, as well as many others.

If unable to attend the National Equality march, Lapon hopes students will join or watch the Rally for Equality and be inspired by the efforts of their peers. There will also be meetings after the march held on the UMass campus to discuss further efforts towards equality. Details can be found on their website, equalitywmass.blogspot.com, or on the WEquality Contingent Coalition Facebook page.

Many are comparing the fight of the LGBT community for equality to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Often the words of Martin Luther King Jr. are quoted from his letter from Birmingham Jail in April 16, 1963, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Michelle Williams can be reached at mnwilliams@student.umass.edu.

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