Thousands to Gather for Tribute Gay Rights Rally

LGBT activists are coming to Philly to demand equal rights and bring an end to policies like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Gay activists are snubbed Washington Sunday to pay tribute to the July 4 gay rights protests that took place in Philly 17 years ago. Their march on Independence Mall was part of the National Equality Rally at the National Constitution Center.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is calling on legislative leaders to back them by expanding LGBT rights, just like gay activists did during the July 4 protests that took place in Philadelphia from 1965 to 1969. With recent gay marriage wins and President Barack Obama's election behind them, the LGBT community believes now could be a defining moment in its history.

“We believe this is the right place and the right time with the right administration and the right president to support equality," Chip Alfred, Equality Forum communications director, told Philadelphia Gay News. "This could be a changing moment in the history of the GLBT civil-rights movement.”

The Equality Forum is the brainchild of Philadelphia attorney Malcolm Lazin, the former head of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Lazin told the paper that he was moved to have a large and diverse gathering when he started the Equality Forum 17 years ago because he thought the gay activist movement had to change direction.

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"We feel this is an iconic moment for the gay civil rights movement, and there is no better place than at the place where there are symbols of liberty at Independence Mall," he said.

After the rally, it was time for SundayOUT!, a street festival in Old City along Market Street from Second to Fifth Street, adjacent to Independence Mall. Sunday's rain didn't deter festival-goers from enjoying over 120 artisans, food and souvenir vendors and live music.

NBC Philadelphia is a proud sponsor of Equality Forum.

17th Annual Equality Forum