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The March is On

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Crowding nearly every corner of the streets between Washington D.C.'s Dupont Circle and the Capitol Building, some 200,000 people gathered for the National Equality March... and on the heels of mixed reviews for Barack Obama's speech at last night's HRC Dinner, gays and lesbians are our in force, chanting, cheering and demanding equal rights.

Advocate.com went backstage at the rally. From Lady Gaga to Cynthia Nixon, David Mixner to Billie Myers, check out what happened behind the scenes at the biggest show Washington's seen in years.

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David Mixner, the longtime gay rights activist who originally called for the march, sat backstage with friend, actress Judith Light, looking out at the growing crowds. Mixner is still healing from his recent hospitalization. He told Advocate.com, "I told you they would come. Never underestimate the power of people who want their freedom."

Mixner addressed the crowd and said of "don't ask, don't tell": "We asked the president to lead Congress, not to be led by Congress."

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Cynthia Nixon (in top photo with Judy Shepard and an event organizer) is backstage at the march hugging and visiting with Judy Shepard and Lt. Dan Choi. "It's time for us to make the president move beyond words. The right sentiment just isn't enough anymore," she says as she addresses the crowd.

Billie Myers, who is British, is scheduled to sing "America the Beautiful." Offstage, Nixon tells her, "At least it's not the National Anthem -- that one's impossible!"

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Top: Billie Myers and Martina Navratilova bond backstage


Later, Brit Myers practices the words to "America the Beautiful," a song she just learned this week," one last time before hitting the stage. After her performance -- and quite a salty speech, in which she said, "I have one message for the president -- I'm sorry, but I did not like your speech yesterday," Choi throws his arms around her.

In his speech, Lt. Dan Choi tells the crowd, "Some of us have come very far and sacrificed so much to be here -- but love is worth it."

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Lady Gaga prepares to take to the stage and stands listening to the speakers before her. Security is tight, but she hugs and takes a picture with anyone who approaches. Addressing the crowd, she says, "I can say with certainty that this is the single most important moment of my career."

Later, referencing Barney Frank's suggestion that this march is a waste of everyone's time, Lady G says, "We are putting more than pressure on this grass, and today this grass is ours."

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After sitting in the hot sun for hour, Tony winner Audra McDonald (center) and the Broadway cast of Hair prepare to hit the stage and sing.

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