One of the nation's most
influential civil rights organizations, The National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), declared support
for civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.
With its support for gay marriage,
the 103 year old NAACP has done more than strike a blow for
fairness and equality, writes Eugene Robinson. The nation's most
venerable civil-rights organization has now made itself relevant
64-member board released a statement that "civil
marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil
law" and citing the 14th Amendment to the US
Constitution as a reason for backing marriage
"The mission of
the NAACP has always been to ensure the
political, social and economic equality of all
people," said Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the
NAACP's board of directors. "We have and will
always oppose efforts to codify discrimination
support for marriage equality is deeply rooted
in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and
equal protection of all people," said Benjamin
Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.
to a Pew
from the civil rights organization arrived on
the heels of President Obama's own recent
statement in support of same-sex marriage in the
on May 19, when paired with recent endorsements
by President Obama and rapper Jay-Z could
indicate that the tide in the black community is
flowing in the direction of marriage equality.
In an interview with
Diane Rehm on
commented on LGBT
Congressman John Lewis is that most rare of politicians. He draws the respect of every colleague on both sides of the partisan aisle. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressman Lewis has represented Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1986. In a new book titled "Across that Bridge," Congressman Lewis draws on lessons learned as a leader of the civil rights movement in the '60s, to inspire today's grass roots activists fighting for social, economic and political change.
He was asked about
opposition to gay
rights are civil
rights. I'm sure you
remember the days
between the races
was a controversial
"I take a position
similar to a
position that Martin
Luther King, Jr.
took many, many
years ago, that
races don't fall in
love and get
fall in love and get
married. So if two
men or two women
fall in love and
want to get married,
they should be able
to do just that. No
government, state or
federal, should tell
people who they can
fall in love with
and get married or
"And I also take the
position that I
fought too long and
too hard against
on race and color
not to stand up and
orientation. And I
think many members
of the African
and a great majority
would come to that
point very soon for
they will learn they
will be -- embrace
You cannot build a
wall when it comes
to equality. It must
be equality for all
and not just for
Lewis was asked:
"What about the
ministers of the
church and their
opposition? How does
one bring them
along? How do you
conversion, if you
"Well, I think it's
important for those
of us who support
marriage equality to
continue to talk
to educate them, to
inform them. I've
long held this
position and I
attend a lot of
churches in my
district in Georgia.
And not one minister
ever said anything
to me about my
position. They all
all tied together in a single garment of destiny . . . I can
never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you
ought to be."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
1929 - April 4, 1968
CORETTA SCOTT KING
April 27, 1927 - January 30, 2006
ANTI-GAY RIGHTS RHETORIC
Comments from Sandy Rios
"To compare rich,
privileged homosexual lobby groups allied with transsexuals and
sadomasochists to brave civil rights crusaders — who risked their lives
to advance freedom — insults every black American who overcame real
injustice and poverty. It’s time for the homosexual lobby to stop
co-opting the black civil rights struggle. The [National Gay and
Lesbian] Task Force’s agenda of promoting perversion — including public
homosexual sex, sadomasochism and bisexuality — would offend the vast
majority of African-Americans who understand the difference between
God-designed racial distinctions and changeable, immoral behavior.”
LGBT RIGHTS & CIVIL RIGHTS
Comments from Coretta Scott King
"I still hear
people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and
gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I
hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who
believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of
brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
Coretta Scott King
like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it
seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity,
their dignity and personhood. This sets the
stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to
victimize the next minority group."
Coretta Scott King
"I've always felt
that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a
free society and must be opposed by all Americans who believe in
civil rights movement thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and
exclusion. My husband's struggle parallels that of the gay rights
Coretta Scott King
"For many years
now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for
gay and lesbian people. Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in
Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla., and many
other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous
men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could
find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions."
Coretta Scott King
"We have a lot
more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and
discrimination. I say “common struggle” because I believe very strongly
that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and
should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from
discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human
right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious,
gender, or ethnic discrimination."
Coretta Scott King
"For too long, our
nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this
group of Americans, who have worked as hard as any other group, paid
their taxes like everyone else, and yet have been denied equal
protection under the law.... I believe that freedom and justice cannot
be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband,
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice
everywhere.' On another occasion he said, 'I have worked too long and
hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my
moral concern. Justice is indivisible.' Like Martin, I don’t believe you
can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others. The
great promise of American democracy is that no group of people will be
forced to suffer discrimination and injustice."
Coretta Scott King
SCOTT KING Dies at
February 03, 2006
‘Mother of civil rights movement’ championed gay rights
As some anti-gay black clergy are likely to
recall the legacy of Coretta Scott King and her contribution to the
civil rights movement during sermons on Sunday, gay activists hope they
will also heed her call for equal rights for all people.
"Ministers today need to sit back and realize
what Dr. and Mrs. King were all about — they don’t honor her legacy when
they spew homophobia and hatred," said Keith Boykin, an author and
activist who serves as board president of the National Black Justice
Coalition, a group that advocates gay rights issues.
Mrs. King, wife of slain civil rights leader
Martin Luther King Jr., died overnight on Jan. 30 at a holistic hospital
in Mexico. She suffered a stroke in August and was afflicted with
late-term ovarian cancer. The King family had not announced funeral
arrangements by press time.
"She was a legend. She influenced many people,"
Boykin added. "And she was one of the few people who got it — that
racism, sexism and homophobia are discrimination — like few others did.
[Ministers] would do well to call her name and recall her words."
‘Champion of human rights’
While her legacy includes being the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Mrs.
King forged a history of her own that included speaking out against a
proposed federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In
numerous speeches she publicly advocated for gay rights as well as
raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.
In Atlanta, where she created the Martin Luther
King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change to honor her late husband,
she worked alongside state legislators to try to defeat the state
constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
"She was a champion for human rights," state
Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta), a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to
throw out Amendment 1, which was approved by voters in 2004, placing a
ban on same-sex unions in the Georgia Constitution.
"She opposed discrimination in all forms and she
remained consistent with her husband’s vision," he added. "Her legacy
will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband’s legacy."
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who also
worked to defeat passage of Georgia’s same-sex marriage ban, praised
King as the "mother of the civil rights movement."
"I respected her not only for her grace and
dignity under pressure, but her courage," he said.
Zandra Conway, spokesperson for In the Life
Atlanta, which organizes the country’s largest annual Black Pride event,
praised King for being a "woman of grace and justice."
"She advocated equal rights for the LBGT
community and she publicly opposed the Georgia amendment to ban same-sex
marriage. One of my favorite quotes from her is, ‘I still hear people
say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay
people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten
to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, injustice anywhere is a
threat to justice everywhere,’" Conway added.
AIDS activist, too
The timing of news of King’s death — on the day of President George W.
Bush’s State of the Union Speech as well as the confirmation of Samuel
Alito as an associate justice on the Supreme Court — is particularly
poetic, said Craig Washington, a black gay activist who works for the
HIV advocacy group Positive Impact in Atlanta.
Bush began his speech Jan. 31 with a tribute to
"I’m hoping her death serves as a clarion call
for people in this country to call for the rights of LGBTQ people and
that it also serves as a call to LGBTQ people to realize that liberation
is not fully achieved until we focus on matters affecting us all,"
"We lost an amazing matriarch and lost our most
well-known and consistent ally — she spoke out against homophobia and
was very active in AIDS prevention mobilization," he said.
Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black
AIDS Institute, also praised King’s advocacy for HIV and AIDS
"Mrs. King boldly framed our fight against the
forces that fuel the AIDS epidemic as part of that mission. That is why
she was among the first Heroes in the Struggle the Institute honored,"
Wilson said in a prepared statement.
"She contributed her voice to our campaigns time
and again and to countless other efforts to help black America save
itself from this scourge," he added.
also quoted her August 2001 speech to the Southern Christian Leadership
Council marking the 20th anniversary of the epidemic.
"AIDS is a global crisis, a national crisis, a
local crisis and a human crisis," Mrs. King said. "No matter where you
live, AIDS is one of the most deadly killers of African Americans. And I
think anyone who sincerely cares about the future of black America had
better be speaking out."
"That address was one of many times in which she
spoke eloquently about the movement to end this epidemic, and its place
in black America’s struggle for justice and equality," Wilson said. "Her
voice, her leadership, her compassion and her commitment will be sorely
missed. But her legacy will live on in all of our individual commitments
to building a secure future for our community."
Inspired beginning of Soulforce
Mel White, founder of Soulforce, an organization dedicated to ending
"spiritual violence" against gay men and lesbians through non-violent
actions against anti-gay churches and religious institutions, credits
Mrs. King for "giving birth" to the group.
It was in 1995 when White, who used to
ghostwrite for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson before accepting he was
gay, was arrested for trespassing at Robertson’s CBN Broadcast Center to
protest his anti-gay rhetoric. White spent 21 days in jail where he
During that time, Mrs. King sent her longtime
executive assistant, Lynn Cothren, a gay man, to the jail to speak to
him about non-violence and the term "soul force" used by Gandhi, later
adopted by Martin Luther King Jr.
"She was my mother in faith," White said of Mrs.
King. "She taught me that non-violence is something you do, it’s not
something you don’t do. She literally gave birth to Soulforce. Her
legacy and Dr. King’s legacy is we have to take it to the streets — we
have to escalate and stigmatize these people who preach homophobia."
Cothren served as Mrs. King’s assistant for 23
years before leaving her employment in 2004. A former Atlantan, he now
lives in Manhattan and is director of administration for the Girl Scouts
of the USA. Cothren said gay men and lesbians have lost a significant
force and ally in King.
Cothren recalled how Mrs. King would give him
time to go protest Cracker Barrel restaurants for its anti-gay hiring
practices and how, despite pressure from some advisers to fire him
because he was gay, she told them, "I know what I need and he does his
"I think the world has lost a great voice for
social justice, but particularly for gays and lesbians we have lost one
of our greatest allies. She was always there when we called," Cothren
"The best way for us to really show appreciation
for her legacy is to look at the issues she spoke about — she also
looked at peace, at health care — all of the world issues are linked
back to us as gays and lesbians," he added.
It was Mrs. King who introduced Bayard Rustin to
Dr. King, Cothren added, after she met him when he was the keynote
speaker at her high school graduation. Rustin, a gay man, helped
organize the famous 1963 March on Washington where King delivered his "I
Have A Dream" speech.
"She knew gay people long before me. She was
well-grounded, well-versed in all people’s rights. It’s not surprising
she would stand up for us when nobody else would. She not only talked
the talk, she walked the walk," Cothren said.
Praise for King’s record
Numerous gay rights organizations touted King’s dedication to fairness
for all in continuing her husband’s legacy and praised her for speaking
out against homophobia.
"Coretta Scott King was one woman who shared a
great dream and a great vision with an extraordinary man," H. Alexander
Robinson, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition,
said in a prepared statement.
"This couple helped to awaken the conscience of
a nation. It is this indomitable spirit that will continue to motivate
those who strive for equal rights for all and fairness for all
families," he added.
In 1997, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
honored King for her support of gay rights; in 2000, she spoke at the
Task Force’s Creating Change Conference for gay rights activists.
"From the beginning, Mrs. King understood that
homophobia is hate, and hate has no place in the Beloved Community that
she and Dr. King envisioned for our nation and our world," Matt Foreman,
executive director of the NGLTF, said in a prepared statement.
Joe Solmonese, executive director of the Human
Rights Campaign, praised King for her support of a bill prohibiting
anti-gay employment discrimination and for her work for justice for all
"She saw justice as a birthright and lent her
voice as a relentless advocate for all fair-minded Americans, gay or
straight, black or white. We join the nation in mourning the loss of a
great hero and give enormous gratitude for all that she’s left behind,"
Solmonese said in a prepared statement.
The National Stonewall Democrats and its black
caucus also praised King for her work for equal rights for all people.
"Black or non-black, gay or straight, Mrs. King
dedicated her life to love, justice, equality, and global human rights
and for that we are truly grateful," Jasmyne Cannick, co-chairperson of
the Stonewall Democrats Black Caucus, said in a prepared statement.
"Mrs. King argued that our nation would not
fulfill its promise unless all Americans, including gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender citizens, were afforded equal treatment under
the law," added Eric Stern, NSD executive director.
In March 2004, Mrs. King joined a growing list of civil rights pioneers
— including U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) and NAACP Chair Julian Bond
— to publicly oppose efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay
"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their
families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil
unions," Mrs. King said during a speech in New Jersey.
But while Mrs. King made numerous public
statements supporting the rights of gay men and lesbians and quoted her
husband’s call for justice for all, their family did not agree on gay
The King family’s youngest child, Rev. Bernice
King, helped organize a march in December 2004 with Bishop Eddie Long of
New Birth Missionary Church in suburban Atlanta, to call for black
churches to become more vocal on issues including banning same-sex
marriage, reforming the education and health care systems, and creating
economic opportunities for minorities.
The march, which began at Martin Luther King
Jr.’s gravesite at the King Center, drew between 20,000 and 25,000
people, according to Atlanta Police Department estimates.
Leaders of the country's
largest LGBT civil rights groups were among the mourners for the
funeral of Coretta Scott King.
The widow of civil rights
leader Martin Luther King, Jr., died on January 30, 2006. She was 78. Called the
mother of the civil rights movement Mrs. King was a longtime advocate of
Human Rights Campaign
president Joe Solmonese, National Black Justice Coalition executive
director, Alexander Robinson and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
executive director Matt Foreman joined President and Mrs. Bush, foreign
dignitaries, and civil rights leaders in honoring Mrs. King.
King's daughter, Bernice,
helped officiate at the service, held at New Birth Missionary Baptist
Church where she is an elder.
Although it is the largest
Black church in the Atlanta area the venue, and Bernice King's
participation, was not without controversy.
In 2004 New Birth pastor Eddie Long organized a march in Atlanta that
attracted several thousand people calling for an amendment to the state
constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
The march stopped at Dr.
King's gravesite where Bernice King lit a torch and handed it to Long,
saying, "I believe this day will go down in the history books as the
greatest showing of Christ and His kingdom in this century."
Her opposition to LGBT
civil rights put her at odds with her mother, illustrating the deep
divisions within the black community over same-sex marriage.
The march angered gay
civil rights leaders who accused Long and Bernice King of hijacking Dr
Until she was disabled by
a stroke last August Coretta Scott King frequently spoke out in favor of
LGBT civil rights.
Mrs. King called her
critics "misinformed" and said that Martin Luther King's message to the
world was one of equality and inclusion.
In 2003, she invited the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to take part in observances of the
40th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King's
"I Have A Dream" speech.
It was the first time that
an LGBT rights group had been invited to a major event of the African
American community and drew the ire of some of the other speakers.
King said her husband
supported the quest for equality by gays and reminded her critics that
the 1963 March on Washington was organized by Bayard Rustin, an openly
In March 2004, she told a
university audience that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and
denounced a proposed amendment to the Constitution ban it.
"Gay and lesbian people
have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether
by marriage or civil union," she said in a speech at The Richard
Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey.
amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it
would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."
Gay leaders who attended
today's service said this was not the time to dwell on the controversy
over the venue and Bernice King.
"The focus should be on Mrs. King and the legacy she leaves," Solmonese