Off to the National Equality March!

The Next Family

By: Tanya Dodd Hise

In the months that followed our wedding, we came home and settled into our favorite new roles:  WIVES x 2!

While we were on our trip, we had been highlighted in a national blog because of our nuptials, and featured online along with photos from the wedding.  I had also created “our story” on’s website, and received quite a bit of positive feedback and supportive comments as well.  Consequently, CNN decided to take some of the stories that various couples had written and turn them into one of THEIR pieces.  We were chosen among several couples to be featured in their piece about same-sex marriage, and had to participate in a telephone interview with the editor who was running the piece – very exciting stuff!  After all of that amazing publicity, around August of 2009, I began corresponding with a woman who was looking for married same-sex couples to feature in a documentary that she was producing and directing.  We excitedly emailed back and forth after we learned that we both lived in the Dallas area, and made arrangements to meet at the Pride parade that would take place in September.  Before we knew it, we were at Pride hanging out and making plans to travel to Washington, D.C. the following month for the National Equality March.  It was a two-phase mission for us:  one, to participate in the march and video our experiences for our part in the documentary; and two, to take photos that would later be used somewhere in the documentary.

We left Dallas and first flew to Philadelphia, since I had been unable to get us a decent rate on inbound tickets to D.C.  We spent a couple of days in Philly, doing some sightseeing, since neither of us had ever been there.  From there we planned to take the train to D.C., since we now had a new love for traveling by train!  The trip to D.C. was just as exciting for me as it had been every other time – this is one of my most favorite travel destinations in the world.  And for the second time in just a few months, I was traveling there with my wife and looking forward to sharing this significant and historical weekend with her.  We arrived on Friday and made our way to our hotel, and then immediately headed to the activities.

At one hotel we attended a “milk & cookies” event, which was geared for families – whatever kind of family you have, they were welcome!  From there we planned to head over to the D.C. Convention Center, where later in the evening, President Obama would be the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s Annual dinner.  We, along with hundreds of others, gathered outside in protest of the president, and his unwillingness to take a stand for marriage equality after many campaign promises to do so.  People screamed in protest against his refusal to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, while religious zealots screamed across the street about God hating fags – while I took hundreds of pictures of all of it.  Erikka videotaped the happenings, and we had so much fun taking it all in together.  It is certainly an adrenaline rush to be right there in the middle of controlled chaos, to have a line of policemen in riot gear separating the screamers from the other screamers.  When night fell and the roars started to die down, we walked down near Chinatown and found a restaurant to grab a late dinner before heading back to our hotel.  Tomorrow was going to be big, and at that time, we had no idea just how huge.

We woke up bright and early, to crisp October air.  Arriving at the other hotel, where many of the march organizers were gathering, we started our day off with a press conference where I snapped many photos of organizers and volunteers as they gave speeches and answered questions.  We met a few celebrities, and several times I thought to myself, “How did I end up so lucky to be a part of this amazing event?”  We got to go up to the roof of the hotel, where we hung out for a few minutes with Cleve Jones – an equal rights icon who, in another time and place, worked with the late Harvey Milk.  I took photos of the gathering crowd below, having no idea that what I thought was just an “okay sized” crowd would, in a very short time, grow to a sea of over 250,000 faces that were all there fighting for the same thing:  equality.

As the march kicked off, we skimmed our way through the crowds, snapping photos along the way, and ultimately hoofing it to the Capitol, where the marchers would end up.  With a press pass, we were able to get right up on the Capitol lawn, in front of the stage where all of the speakers would be.  I took hundreds of photos, tweeted tons of posts on Twitter and gave many status updates on Facebook – I was in awe of the fact that we were there and part of it!  I remember at one point, turning around and standing in my chair to take a picture of the crowd as they poured in from the march route and not being able to speak.  The sheer magnitude of seeing hundreds of thousands of people – gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered – coming together on the National Mall, was simply mind-blowing and monumental.  For hours we sat in the October sun, on a perfect day, and listened to the speeches of amazing people from all walks of life, including Judy Shepherd (mother of Matthew), Lady GaGa, Cleve Jones, David Mixner, and so many more.  There were celebrities like Cynthia Nixon and Michelle Clunie, and many, many local activists who are out there every day fighting for all of our equal rights.

Eventually all of the festivities came to an end.  The crowds dispersed and the noise died down.  We all hoped that the President had been watching.  We all hoped that change had been made, that our voices had been heard.  Everyone who attended and marched on that October 11, 2009 day were a part of history – the RIGHT side of history.  It is a story that I am so proud of, and one that I cannot wait to tell our children…hopefully one day in a world where every American citizen is treated the same.

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