Today, August 28, 1963 marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr's “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington, D.C. A man who fought for civil rights, King became a hero for the African American community. Said King 50 years ago:
“But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
No, the gay community was not specifically mentioned in King’s speech, but many of us can see ourselves in the above paragraph. Talk to the parents of Matthew Shepard and Jamey Rodemeyer, two gay individuals whose lives ended as a result of LGBT discrimination. Shepard was murdered by men filled with homophobia, while Rodemeyer took his own life after months of bullying because of his sexual orientation.
I can’t imagine King supporting those heinous acts or turning a blind eye to the injustice experienced by the LGBT community and gay families. Another question looms. Would King support same-sex marriage or two gay partners raising children?
It is a question with no easy answer, but King did not shun the gay community. King’s advisor Bayard Rustin, the man who helped assemble King’s 1963 March in Washington was gay. Would King enlist the help of Rustin if he thought homosexuality was wrong?
The jury is still out on that. Said King’s daughter, Rev. Bernice King, as stated in a CNN article by John Blake, Martin Luther King, Jr. “did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.” However, King’s widow Coretta King Scott advocated for gay rights, not only public supporting our LGBT community, but also encouraging other minorities to do the same.
Said Scott in her 1996 speech at the Atlanta Gay Pride Festival, “It’s vitally important that African Americans, lesbians, and gay people and women’s rights movements and all groups who experience discrimination to work together in multicultural coalitions for justice. “
Though King did not publicly discuss the gay community’s plight, King and Scott shared a common thread: the belief that people can band together in a common cause to ensure justice.
While Scott explained in her 1996 speech how minorities share the similar adversaries of “church burners” and “gay bashers, King told the world fifty years ago:
“With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"
Thank you, Dr. King.
Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. would support the gay community? Please leave a comment below.