"Twenty-five, thirty years ago, the barometer of human rights in the United States were black people. That is no longer true. The barometer for judging the character of people in regard to human rights is now those who consider themselves gay, homosexual, lesbian. We are all one. And if we don't know it, we will learn it the hard way."-Bayard Rustin
As we celebrate the vision and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. many in the black LGBT community are asking where King would stand on LGBT rights today if he were still alive. Many people point to the words of King's wife, the late Coretta Scott King- a fierce ally to the gay community as proof that MLK would have supported the gay civil rights movement.
"Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others", said King. She would often quote her husband: "I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible."
Corretta Scott King also spoke out in favor of marriage equality during a time former President George W. Bush was seeking a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."
MLK had no shortage of black gay and lesbian people involved in the civil rights movement, most notably Bayard Rustin, chief organizer and strategist of the historic 1963 March on Washington.
In the Civil Rights movement Bayard Rustin was always the man behind the scene and a large part of that had to due with the fact that he was gay. Because of their own homophobia, many African American ministers involved in the Civil Right movement would have nothing to do with Rustin, and they intentionally rumored throughout the movement that King was gay because of his close friendship with Rustin.
When Rustin was asked about MLK's views on gays in a March 1987 interview with Redvers Jean Marie he stated, "It is difficult for me to know what Dr. King felt about gayness.... "
In a spring 1987 interview with Rustin in "Open Hands," a resource for ministries affirming the diversity of human sexuality, Rustin recalls that difficult period quite vividly. Rustin stated, "Martin Luther King, with whom I worked very closely, became very distressed when a number of the ministers working for him wanted him to dismiss me from his staff because of my homosexuality. Martin set up a committee to discover what he should do. They said that, despite the fact that I had contributed tremendously to the organization, ... they thought I should separate myself from Dr. King. This was the time when [Rev. Adam Clayton] Powell threatened to expose my so-called homosexual relationship with Dr. King."
When Rustin pushes him on the issue to speak up on his behalf King did not. -SOURCE
Rev Irene. Monroe, noted theologian and gay rights advocate seems torn on whether or not King would have supported gay rights and in a 2007 speech at the Gill Foundation's National Outgiving Conference offered this quote:
"If Dr. Martin Luther King were standing up for LGBTQ rights today, the Black community would drop him too".
Something to think about.