WASHINGTON (CNN) - Judy Shepard stood before a massive crowd at the Capitol on Sunday for a single, painful reason.
"I'm here today because I lost my son to hate."
Her gay son, Matthew Shepard, was kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998. He died five days later in a hospital.
More than 10 years later, Judy Shepard addressed the thousands of gay rights activists in Washington who wrapped up Sunday's National Equality March with a rousing rally at the Capitol.
"No one has the right to tell my son whether or not he can work anywhere. Whether or not he can live wherever he wants to live and whether or not he can be with the one person he loves - no one has that right," Judy Shepard told the crowd. "We are all Americans. We are all equal Americans, gay, straight or whatever."
The activists marched through Washington, calling for an end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and equality in marriage.
The National Equality March coincided with National Coming Out Day, and came a day after President Obama delivered a supportive speech to the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights group.
Obama was praised for his remarks to the Human Rights Campaign, where he said he has urged congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act. But Obama has also been criticized by gay rights activists who say he has put those issues - and the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans homosexuals from openly serving in the military - on the back burner.
"Obama, I know you are listening," pop star Lady Gaga told the crowd, before shouting, "Are you listening? We will continue to push you and your administration to bring your words of promise to a reality."