SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Savannah resident Brahm Wilson said she had no problem showing her true colors in Johnson Square as she and hundreds of others gathered for the inaugural Queer Power March.
In 2004, Wilson said, she was discharged from the Marine Corps under "don't ask, don't tell" regulations.
Friday night was the perfect chance for her and others to speak out against the policy, which a federal judge in California ruled Thursday was unconstitutional.
"I think it's important to raise awareness of the unconstitutionality of it," she said. "It's definitely time for a change."
About 500 people joined Wilson in the march that threaded down Broughton Street to Franklin Square and ended in Ellis Square. They chanted slogans and cried for equality in the community and across the nation.
First City Network Vice President Jesse Morgan, armed with a bullhorn, led the charge of people who walked, bicycled and even rode in a vintage Ford calling for an end to the inequalities lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the community see every day.
"We're here for Savannah's first-ever Queer Power March," Morgan said. "But more importantly, we're here to empower citizens."
Kevin Clark, of the Savannah Chapter of Georgia Equality, added there were a number of issues in which to raise awareness, especially on the eve of the gay-pride events scheduled through the weekend.
Clark noted the march was a chance to raise awareness about hate directed at gays, the need for Savannah city officials to allow benefits for domestic partners and "don't ask, don't tell."
"It's a multitude of issues we're bringing to the forefront," Clark said.
Thursday's condemnation of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members was quietly lauded by marchers as only a small step in the right direction.
Discharged Navy sailor Joe Anthony Rodriguez said he was traveling the country to represent The Sanctuary Project, which advocates rights for service members and veterans affected by the policy.
Rodriguez said he was raped, kidnapped, drugged and left for dead in San Diego last year. And a civilian hospital disclosed his sexual orientation to thousands of Navy sailors when he was seeking help for post traumatic stress disorder.
"I was discharged because I was a gay man," Rodriguez said.
He said the federal judge's decision was only a starting point.
"They can throw this into court for 17 years. We've got to keep pressure on the Senate and let them know that hey, this is your chance to repeal it by November," he said.
Marcher Robert Smith said he retired from the Army but spent a career with his lifestyle shrouded in secrecy.
"We all have our rights, but some people think we shouldn't," Smith said. "Just like me: I served in the military the whole time, and no one should have the right to tell us we can't do something or be a part of our society."
Wilson had just studied Thursday's news about the policy being overturned, but like Rodriguez, she said she was hesitant to believe it represented real change.
"We'll see if anything happens," she said. "I'm still skeptical."