On October 11, 1987, about 500,000 LGBTQ people and allies gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This national demonstration was prompted by President Ronald Reagan’s failure to respond to the AIDS Crisis and the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold state sodomy laws. Organizers from across the nation drafted a platform primarily demanding legal recognition and decriminalization of LGBTQ relationships, end discrimination against HIV/AIDS-positive people, and funding for AIDS research and education. The march was part of week-long activities that included civil disobedience acts, a massive wedding, and the first display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. At that time, the 1987 March on Washington was one of the largest LGBTQ demonstrations in the United States.
The Missouri delegation at the 1987 March on Washington carried this banner. Activists from across the state organized contingents and raised travel funds for demonstrators. It is estimated that Kansas City had over 100 people marching. The national demonstration brought new energy to state efforts. In the years after the march, Missouri LGBTQ activists achieved important victories including the expansion of social services, increased visibility for Pride celebrations, and secured equal rights ordinances on the local level. Despite the Show Me State’s conservative politics, activist participation in the march demonstrates Missouri’s LGBTQ response to the AIDS epidemic and their involvement in local, regional, and national civil rights movements.