Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday marking the birthday of one of the most important civil rights leaders in world history. (Observed on the third Monday of January every year, Dr. King's birthday is actually January 15th.) Dr. King, of course, is famous for espousing nonviolent actions throughout the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s in the United States and for giving the brilliant "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., in 1963. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.
Dr. King would no doubt be happy to see how things have turned out since the 60s. Although racism and discrimination are still with us, the country has come a long way since then. Anyone who openly expresses a belief that blacks and whites should be kept separate or that blacks don't deserve every right that white people have would be met with justified condemnation.
Freethinkers realize that Dr. King's dream can't stop at equality for black people, though. In most states, and even at the federal level, homosexuals suffer some of the same indignities that black people did prior to the civil rights movement. Freethought demands the putting aside of dogmas (whether religious, political, or otherwise) and letting reason and evidence guide one's actions. From a freethought perspective, there's simply no reason that homosexuals don't have all the rights of heterosexuals, including the ability to marry one another and enjoy all the legal rights (and obligations) that marriage entails.
Obviously, there are differences between the plight of homosexuals today and black people before the civil rights movement. Gays don't have to use different bathrooms or water fountains, for instance. But there's no such thing as "partial equality." Interracial marriage is a fairly common thing now in the United States, but it used to be just as illegal as homosexual marriage is in most states today. Of course, marriage equality will eventually be the norm, as most Americans today support it and same-sex marriage is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Charleston resident Sam Colclasure, an openly gay man, hopes that marriage equality comes sooner than later. "Dr. King's message was that no person was better than any other and that everyone should enjoy the same rights," he says. "America isn't quite there yet, but it will be."