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Matthew Shepard March for Gay Freedom Goes by Wrigley Field Following Cubs Loss


Marching past Wrigley Field.

Marching past Wrigley Field. [Photos by Chris Geovanis]

CHICAGO, 10-8-07 – After four days packed with media interviews and a benefit reception, Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev wrapped up his US visit by participating in a Gay Liberation Network (GLN) protest against Illinois's leading gay-hater Friday night, and then keynoted GLN's 9th Annual Matthew Shepard Rally for LGBT Freedom the following night.

Nikolai Alexeyev addressing Matthew Shepard March.

Nikolai Alexeyev addressing Matthew Shepard March.

On Friday night the far right Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) attempted to re-launch their organization with its first public event since their leader, Peter LeBarbera, was apparently ousted last August from the Illinois Family Institute due to a string of failures (see August 19, 2006 - Swan Song of the Illinois Family Institute?: Hate-Gays Group in Turmoil). His most spectacular defeat was spending huge resources in a failed attempt to get an anti-gay referendum on the 2006 Illinois ballot. LeBarbera opposes not only equal marriage rights for gays, but also equal employment rights and equal access to housing and public accommodations.

The Friday night banquet was hardly an auspicious start for AFTAH. Their first venue for the event, a Holiday, cancelled on them after receiving repeated complaints about hosting a hate event. Only about 40-50 ended up attending their banquet at the Embassy Suites Hotel in west suburban Lombard, IL, despite no admission charge and flying in two out of town speakers.

Despite taking place during the final 2007 playoff appearance of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, GLN's 9th annual Matthew Shepard March for LGBT Freedom drew about 300 people.

After the rally featuring Alexeyev, the crowd marched through the streets of Chicago's gay business district and into a non-gay entertainment district next to Wrigley Field. Despite the Cubs being knocked out of the playoffs that night, most fans gave the marchers a friendly reception, applauding and high-fiving the participants.

Some Cubs fans join the march.

Besides Alexeyev, other speakers at the rally included:

* Attorney Dana Kurtz spoke the problem of police violence against LGBT people. She represents Debra Sciotino, Nicole Tomaskovic and Kelly Fuery, three lesbian women who were gay-bashed by an off-duty Chicago Police Officer following this year's Pride (see 09-27-2007 - Chicago Tribune - Women claim police abuse and cover-up in lawsuit)

3rd speaker, Attorney Dana Kurtz (middle), who represents three lesbian women who were gay-bashed by an off-duty Chicago police officer. She was joined on stage by two of her clients, Debra Sciotino (left) and Nicole Tomaskovic (right).

* Lloyd Kelly & Robert Thomas, who spoke about the racism faced by LGBT youth on Halsted Street

* Stephanie Fisher of ANSWER Chicago, who spoke about the death of Victoria Arellano, a transgendered immigrant killed by medical neglect by immigrant authorities

* Rev. Liz Stedman, the openly lesbian Episcopal chaplain at Northwestern University, who spoke about equal rights within the church and the schism that anti-gay zealots are trying to provoke within the Anglican/Episcopalian denomination.

Reverend Liz Stedman, Episcopal chaplain at Northwestern University.

* GLN co-founder Andy Thayer, who spoke about the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, the Democrats' complicity in them, and the threat of war on Iran.

"Robert Thomas speaking about the problems confronting gay youth on Halsted Street"

For more information about Alexeyev's organization and their struggles to win equal rights for Russian lesbians and gays despite repeated arrests, and physical attacks by neo-fascists and religious zealots, go to www.GayRussia.ru.

Columbia College students.

Nikolai Alexeyev and Andy Thayer

Chicago Area CodePINKers Robin Schirmer, Betsy Schonitzer and Rachel Herbener


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