By Gary Barlow
Staff Writer, Chicago Free Press
Oct. 8, 2003
Remembering Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming five years ago, about 300 people rallied in Boystown Oct. 4, then marched from Halsted Street through Wrigleyville to protest anti-gay bigotry and demand same-sex marriage rights.
"Equality with heterosexuals, period!" said Andy Thayer, of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, which sponsored the annual Matthew Shepard March.
"How being able to marry the people we love is an attack on heterosexual marriage-it floors me, the idiocy of it," Thayer said. "Our response to those who are against gay marriage then is, 'Don't have one. But don't stop us from having one.'"
Other speakers at the rally at Halsted and Roscoe recalled Shepard's murder and said such tragedies would continue to occur until GLBT's were granted equal rights in the United States.
"Gay and lesbian people are still one of the most marginalized groups of people in the country," said Megan Streit, of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women. "We are denied some of the most fundamental rights that are supposed to come from being a citizen of this country. …We need to remember the hate crime that was committed in Wyoming in 1998 and not allow Matthew Shepard's death to be in vain."
Partners for 32 years, David Cunningham and Steve Derry said America's denial of equal rights creates burdens for them that straight couples don't have to endure.
"(Derry's) Medicare supplement policy costs $232 a month but I can't file in a head-of-household tax bracket because we can't get married," Cunningham said. "Straight people criticize gay people for not having committed relationships, then deny us equal rights under the law to have committed relationships."
Rich Halperin, of the Northern Illinois Council of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Rev. Tom Ford, of the Church of the Open Door, also emphasized the unfairness of U.S. marriage laws.
"We sustain this commonwealth with our taxes, our money, our jobs and our lives," Ford said. "We have a right to be who we are."
Following the rally the crowd marched down Halsted to Belmont, then north on Clark to Addison, passing bars full of Cubs fans who'd attended the playoff game a few hours earlier.
"What do we want?" the marchers chanted. "Equal marriage rights! When do we want it? Now!"
Escorted by police, the marchers returned without incident to Halsted and Roscoe.