Gay-Friendly Protest Coverage in Sharp Contrast to Sour Treatment of 9-12 Rally

The Times hypes the gay rights rally with optimistic crowd estimates and a positive tone quite unlike the paper's sour coverage of the much larger conservative rally of September 12. But how many "tens of thousands" of gay rights advocates actually showed up on the West Lawn yesterday?

Sunday's gay rights rally on Capitol Hill garnered a positive story on the first page of Monday's National section by reporter Jeremy Peters, "New Generation of Gay Rights Advocates March to Put Pressure on the President," which claimed that "tens of thousands" gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol to prod Barack Obama to move more aggressively to promote greater equality for gays.

Unlike the paper'shostile coverage of the "tea party" and "9/12" rallies by anti-spending conservatives, the Times' relatively prominent (page A12) coverage of the gay rights rally displayed no hostility toward the marchers' beliefs and didn't label them liberal, even though a photo slideshow at featuredimages of Socialist Worker party members marching in solidarity.

The only criticism the Times found came from some gay rights advocates, including Rep. Barney Frank, who argued the protest was a diversion of scarce resources that could have been plowed into ballot initiatives in Maine and Washington state. The Times also found the new breed of activists attacking Obama from the left for insufficient attention to their issues. (The Timespublished a long story from Peters the day before about divisions in the gay rights movement, between those who want federal action and those who want to focus on local initiatives.)

Impatient and discouraged by what they see as a certain detachment by President Obama on their issues, gay rights supporters took to the streets Sunday in the largest demonstration for gay rights here in nearly a decade.

The rally was primarily the undertaking of a new generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates who have grown disillusioned with the movement's leadership.

Known as Stonewall 2.0 or the Prop. 8 Generation (a reference to the galvanizing effect that the repeal of California's same-sex marriage law had on many young people), these activists, in their 20s and 30s, are at odds with advocates urging patience as Mr. Obama grapples with other pieces of his domestic agenda like the health care overhaul and the economic recovery.

The Times claimed there were "tens of thousands on the west lawn of the Capitol."

But at the rally, some gave the speech low marks for lacking anything new and failing to acknowledge several major issues confronting the movement. In the words of Billie Myers, a musician who spoke to an eager crowd of tens of thousands on the west lawn of the Capitol, "I'm sorry, but I didn't like your speech."

The Times credulously reported over-optimistic estimates from organizers "saying that at least 150,000 people had attended" the march. That figure sounds quite high compared to estimates of 20,000 discussed on gay rights web sites. By contrast, most observers put the numbers at theSeptember 12 rally well into six figures. Yet the Times didn't quote any estimates of crowd size in its coverage of the conservative rally.

The organizers were rating the march a success, saying that at least 150,000 people had attended, though the authorities gave no official estimate of the crowd size.

The marchers included many who were not gay but attended to support gay friends.