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Thousands march for gay rights in Washington

world Updated: Oct 12, 2009 07:52 IST

Thousands of demonstrators marched to the US Capitol on Sunday to advocate for gay rights and urge President Barack Obama and lawmakers to repeal laws they say are discriminatory.

The demonstrators chanted slogans and carried banners urging the recognition of gay marriage and an end to a ban on openly gay people serving in the military. The marchers, many of them young and some accompanied by their children, passed the White House on their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

Speakers, including celebrities like singer Lady Gaga and actress Patricia Nixon, addressed the thousands gathered in front of the Capitol building along the National Mall.

David Choi, a former Army officer who was removed from the military after announcing he was gay and has since advocated publicly against the rule, decried the policy known as "Don't ask, don't tell" that prohibits openly homosexual people from serving.

"I am telling, I am telling, I am telling! Will you tell with me?" he cried to cheers from the crowd.

The protest came the day after Obama repeated his past pledges to overturn the military's policy of expelling troops who express homosexual orientation in a speech to a national gay-rights group.

He told the Human Rights Campaign's annual black-tie gala, held in downtown Washington: "I will end, 'Don't ask, don't tell,'" as the policy in force since 1993 is known. Obama, who made similar promises during his 2008 election campaign, did not say when or how he would act to allow homosexuals to openly serve in uniform.

He told gay-rights campaigners in a 25-minute address that his commitment to their cause is "unwavering". Some in the movement have criticised his lack of action on gay-rights issues since taking office in January and some demonstrators said on Sunday he is yet to take decisive enough action.