Coretta Scott King on Gay Rights

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.


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I recently organized a panel discussion on gay rights and CWA was one of the invited parties. As the moderator, I pushed the CWA representative on the analogy you are suggesting here between racial marriage and gay marriage (citing the Loving case as the support). The reply from CWA was, of course, predictable; race is not a choice, homosexuality is. And thus they rejected the analogy. Whether you agree with this move or not, that will be their reply. Of course, even if it is ever proven that it is not a choice, they will not change their stance. Instead they will whip out their fallback -- the "medicalization" of homosexuality; namely, that it is a genetic disorder in a way that race is not. The anti-gay crowd has an endless number of fallback arguments. To them it's turtles all the way down.

[N]o one outside the KKK thinks interracial marriage should be banned anymore....

As a person who will be entering into an interracial marriage this year (a heterosexual one, as it happens), I don't think this is true. I'm not convinced that concerns about "racial mixing" (or perhaps "cultural," etc.) are quite as marginalized as the Klan is. I'm really only quibbling about a matter of degree--unhappiness with "miscegenation" is still a fairly marginal thing--but my sense is that there may be more discomfort out there than you realize.

And of course I agree with every word of this post otherwise.

How about this argument or better yet a point. Mr. & Mrs. LaHaye who run CWA & BLI are old enough to have participated conciously & fully in the civil rights movement. Did they? Nearly 40 years after MLK's death and the movement's success it's easy to jump on the bandwagon. But were was all that indignant passion for an end to segregation and interracial marriage when it was festering and flowing and they and others had ample opportunity to join the march before it became a parade. We've got to stop playing the Machiavellian game. Call them on their racist bullshit.

...the difference between God-designed racial distinctions...

So races are ordained by God, eh? I guess that means we puny humans had better not frustrate the original design by mixing breeds.

...and changeable, immoral behavior.

Like being sanctimonious jerks? I'd like to think that's changeable, at least.

I'm currently involved in research about miscegenation and the arguments made in favor of it myself, and the parallels are truly breath-taking (and if anyone has any quotes/links/recommended books/articles, please e-mail me--I'm looking to be as thorough as possible here).

Too often, though, the response is "Well, black people are offended by gays trying to compare the two struggles for civil rights."

My basic reply to this is, "So what?" What does the opinion of some blacks matter? Hell, there were black who agreed with the KKK. Their objection doesn't make this analogy any less valid.

no one outside the KKK thinks interracial marriage should be banned anymore

You think so? In the actual vote to repeal Alabama's anti-miscegenation amendment, as recently as 2000, 40% of the people voted to keep it. Of course, as I don't know what the voter turnout overall was, this number may be completely meaningless. But still, there are plenty of people who still disagree with it.

Even more importantly Grumpy, not only can the sanctimonious jerks change that aspect of their behavior, but they can sure as sh*t also change their immoral, heretical religious beliefs, which, of course, are protected under the very laws in which they fight to keep gays from being included.

Although Mrs. King is not quoted as mentioning him, certainly Bayard Rustin is the most notable of the gays and lesbians who were instrumental in the civil rights movement. Because his homosexuality was known, Rustin was forced to stay in the background and has only recently gotten the credit he deserves, but MLK Jr. himself always respected Rustin and his work. IIRC, King refused to dump Rustin from the organizing of the '63 March on Washington, even though there was concern the FBI would out Rustin in order to damage the march.

Coretta Scott King's passing is indeed sad, but it is the way of all flesh. She was a staunch supporter of equal rights for everyone, including gay people, and wrote many articles on the subject.

I might also mention John Lewis, a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr, who with Bayard Rustin behind the scenes, organized the 1963 march on Washington. In recent years, Lewis, a Democratic Representative from Georgia to the House, has written eloquently in favor of equal rights for gay people.

CPT_Doom, you recall correctly. The homosexual weasels J Edgar and Roy Cohn were quite viciously homophobic. In any event, the Event went off well, even if Rustin did not initially get the credit that he deserved.