I have often made the argument that gay marriage and interracial marriage are analogous, particularly in the arguments against each (no one outside the KKK thinks interracial marriage should be banned anymore, but the arguments against it were virtually identical to the arguments against gay marriage) and that the modern struggle for gay rights is the logical extension of the struggle for black civil rights in this country. Several black ministers have come out against this analogy and argued against gay rights. Others in the religious right have adopted their rhetoric and expanded on it. Concerned Women for America, for instance, has declared:
“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,” said CWA President Sandy Rios… “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.”
As the nation mourns the death of Coretta Scott King, it is important to note that she rejected this nonsense completely and argued forcefully that gay rights was indeed the logical next step for a civil rights movement that cares about more than just racial inequality. Mrs. King spoke often to gay rights groups and always spoke out strongly for gay rights. In 1998, just a few days before the 30th anniversary of her husband’s assassination, she noted the obvious similarities:
“Homophobia is 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.”
She also noted that her husband believed that all struggles for equal rights were bound together and that it was necessary to fight against bigotry in all forms, not merely the form that affected you personally:
“We are 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,” she said, quoting her husband. “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 democracy.”
And she pointed out that many gays and lesbians had fought for black civil rights, demanding that blacks return the favor:
“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,” she said. “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.”
But perhaps her most eloquent statement on the subject came in 1994, again invoking the words of her late husband in support of equal rights for all:
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.
Coretta Scott King’s strong and clear voice for freedom and equality will be sorely missed.