Today, as we celebrate Dr. King’s 88th birthday, many in the LGBT community have stopped to ponder the question about how did he actually feel about our community? Furthermore, would Dr. King be an outspoken voice for OUR civil rights the way he was for the African American community? Or would he echo most of the religious organizations, especially those in the black community, which continue to speak out against us and remain in favor of draconian legislation that would limit our rights and cast us as second class citizens?
Reverend Irene Monroe asks those very questions in her article published today in the Bilerico Report on LGBTQ Nation. She ponders: “As I comb through numerous books and essays learning more about King’s philandering, sexist attitude about women at home and in the movement, and his relationship with [gay March on Washington organizer] Bayard Rustin, I am wondering would King be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights?” She goes on to posit that: “In the address I gave at the Gill Foundation’s National Outgiving Conference in 2007, I said, “If Dr. Martin Luther King were standing up for LGBTQ rights today, the black community would drop him too.”
It is easy to use King’s own words and actions against him since he has been dead for 49 years. We apply our modern day thinking and conventions to his words and see that he wasn’t really willing to go to bat for our community. However, is that really fair? Surely, had King survived the assassination, his thoughts on LGBT rights would have evolved, just like Presidents Clinton and Obama, and nearly every other leader of our country who is a Democrat, as well as many Republicans. Just look at Reverend Al Sharpton, or even Georgia’s Representative John Lewis how marched beside Dr. King and has gone on the record to state: “I fought too long and too hard to end discrimination based on race and color, to not stand up against discrimination against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
There are many things you can do to celebrate MLK Day this year, one way would be to pause to think about just how far we have come since the days when Dr. King was here, and how much work we still have to do, not only in the area of LGBT rights but also in securing rights for all people, regardless of skin color or religion.