Same-sex relations front and center

Civil rights includes gays 50 years after march
Associated Press
Aug 22, 2013


Months before Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" declaration galvanized a quarter-million people at the 1963 March on Washington, Bayard Rustin was planning all the essential details to keep the crowd orderly and engaged.

Rustin, who died in 1987, is sometimes forgotten in civil rights history. As a Quaker and pacifist, he was often an outcast. Perhaps most notably, he was gay in an era when same-sex relations were widely reviled in American society. He served as chief strategist for King's march, over the objections of some leaders — but he was kept mostly in the background, with some organizers considering him a liability.

At the commemorations for King's march 50 years later, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will be included like never before in a sign of the civil rights movement's broad evolution. Rustin also will be honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

"In '63, we didn't talk about gays," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was joined by gay and lesbian activists in announcing plans for the gatherings scheduled Aug. 24-28 in Washington. "Bayard Rustin had to take a back seat. Gay and lesbian leadership stands with us and will be speaking this time."

Groups plan to bus in gay and lesbian participants from Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina and beyond. The planning groups include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Black Justice Coalition and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, as well as labor and teachers unions.

The Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, who directs faith partnerships and mobilizing at the Human Rights Campaign, said the inclusion of gay rights in the larger civil rights movement has been transformative.

"We see human rights and civil rights as linked. And so our commitment is to stand with others on issues of justice and, really, on issues of equality," he said. "LGBT equality, in our minds, is consistent with many other justice issues, so it's important that we're present."

Gay rights advocates credit Sharpton and leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with overcoming divisions among African-American groups, some of which remain socially conservative. Gay issues can be divisive, especially in black churches. King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, has spoken out in the past against gay marriage, while her late mother, Coretta Scott King, was an ardent gay rights supporter.

The pace of change in views among civil rights leaders has been surprising, said Taylor Branch, a historian who has written extensively on the civil rights movement. It reflects the broad impact of the 1960s call for equal citizenship, which led to movements for the rights of women, the environment, disabled people and eventually for gays.

"Once people really started confronting their fears and what does equal citizenship mean and why aren't we fairer to this group or that group, it sparked all kinds of questions like that," Branch said.

The inclusion of gay rights marks an evolution in how Americans think about civil rights as rights pertaining to citizenship, Branch said.

"It's a step in maturity beyond trying to say this is just about us and race relations," Branch said. "I think acknowledging the larger impact doesn't diminish the movement. It actually shows how important it was in opening other doors then and maybe still now."

Civil rights veteran Julian Bond, who helped establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, said there has been a "shift in consciousness" among African-Americans. For 11 years as NAACP chairman, Bond said he never pushed the organization to take a stand on gay marriage because he feared he would lose if the issue was put to a vote. Then in May 2012, shortly after Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, the organization's board voted to support gay marriage rights.

"Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law," the group announced, citing the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

In a written statement to The Associated Press, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said a broader coalition is needed to fight the civil rights battles of the 21st century.

"Last century we needed lawyers; this century we need big, broad coalitions," he said. "When extremists decide to attack all our communities, they must hope that there will be infighting. But we have stood all for one and one for all. That is how we will win."

For LGBT people, the fight is not yet over for the values of equality King stood for, said Darlene Nipper of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Most states ban gay marriage and other civil rights for gay couples.

As a black woman and lesbian, Nipper said she will be able to bring her whole self to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, now that the gay rights movement is not a separate cause pushed to the side.

"It's just a powerful, palpable, beautiful progression toward the kind of society that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about when he was talking about that truly beloved community," she said. "That's really reflective of inclusion for all of us."

While Rustin was kept out of public view 50 years ago at the march, Flournoy and other gay rights advocates said they plan to speak at this year's gatherings. There will also be special events at Washington's Lincoln Theatre and at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters to honor Rustin's memory. And Rustin will be honored later this year at the White House.

"It's going to be a watershed moment," said Sharon Lettman-Hicks of the National Black Justice Coalition, which is dedicated to LGBT people of color. "But the work is not done."


Associated Press writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this report from Washington.


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thinkagain's picture

More one sided homosexual propaganda from the liberal media’s relentless onslaught against moral values.

The Answer Person

Your Daddy liked it.


Whose moral values? Yours? Explain to me how equal rights are immoral, without the references to the Bible and your religion.
Quire frankly, I, along with many others, feel that morality has nothing to do with someone's sexual orientation.
You have a right to your beliefs--but you do not have the right to use those beliefs to oppress others.


Explain to my why I have to suppress my beliefs to accomodate yours?


You don't have to suppress your beliefs. But you cannot use them to oppress others.


Think Again: Yes, shame on gays for wanting the same equal rights/treatment you enjoy every day. You do realize that the reason they have to fight so hard for it, and be so vocal, is because so many people still refuse to treat them as they would want to be treated.

Funny, I always thought The Golden Rule was the best take-away lesson on moral values in the Bible. Isn't treating others with respect and equality a moral value?

thinkagain's picture

Thanks for asking!

First of all, equality, as defined by the liberal, is merely a rhetorical political slogan, devoid of its true meaning.

To define equality as non-judgmental acceptance is to promote a kind of moral relativism.

What’s the difference between a moral relativist and someone with no morals? Nothing.

To recognize that human beings are all equally individual does not mean having to treat them uniformly in any respects other than those in which they clearly have a moral claim to be treated alike.

A judgment of inequality presumes a difference between the things being compared. There is no difference between the homosexual and the heterosexual when it comes to their need to live righteously.

As Christians, we believe that those who are apart from God at death, will continue to be separated from their true Creator for eternity. Ergo, we benevolently spread the good news of the gospel message, that Jesus died as a substitute in our place, to restore fellowship with our loving Father.

To accuse a zealous Christian of "not treating others with respect", is simply a lie. We should attack the sin, never the sinner. God HATES sin, but not people.

Recognizing sin is the first step to overcoming, no matter which sin is being discussed. But “progressives” are trying to say that homosexual sex is good, right and moral. This is the reason I address it.

Marriage is ordained by God to be between a man and a woman. The idea of two homosexuals marrying is an offense to the God who created marriage.

Christians who proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin are homosexuals' best friends, whether those in the homosexual community feel that way or not.

By the way, it's thinkagain :)


forgottothink, "God hates sin, but not people", then why do you hate? Don't try to tell us you don't, you have shown time and time again you are a bigot.


Once again you are not able to separate religious marriage with legal marriage. We are only concerned with the law in regarding homosexuals--not what your church defines as marriage.

From the Grave

Gay people need good jobs too, and THAT is what we should be focusing on. Our government loves it when we are argue over things that take the spotlight off of how they've run the economy into the toilet.

red white and blue

Point spot on grave


Al Sharpton is pissing all over Martin Luther King Jr. by adding gay rights to his platform. I'm fairly certain that as a pastor in a Southern Baptist Chruch, he would have felt the homosexuality is immoral as outlined in the bible.
But then again, as long as Al Sharpton can keep his name in the news and remain relevant, he doesn't care what he has to do.

From the Grave

I have a dream, that the white man will learn to hate the gays more than he hates the blacks...


Middle Right:
Martin Luther King was all about stopping discrimination in any/all forms. The Bible also advocates slavery, and I think we can probably say that MLK wasn't pro-slavery, so your "as outlined in the Bible" comment is irrelevant. It's highly likely that King would've taken the same stance with gay rights as he did with civil rights.

thinkagain's picture

Yet another biblical illiterate atheist spewing falsehoods…


coasterfan, very true.

be for real

People dont like our christian beliefs and dont want them forced on them,but they can try to force their beliefs of this same sex junk on us. Talk about one sided.As for being a christian, some of us truly are and dont like all the name calling,cussing,slandering that goes on. Real christians are to be loving,which is in no way hating if we dont want anything to do with your beliefs. You choose your self whom you will serve and keep it to your self


stop it..stop it. you are trying to make me a gay basher and i dont want to. If you keep putting this crap in your paper and on this sight you will go away like the other news papers going bankruprt