Where Would MLK Have Stood on Marriage Equality?

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Where Would MLK Have Stood on Marriage Equality?

This MLK holiday reminds me how Alabama has always been a troubling  state when it comes to upholding the civil rights of its denizens.

Martin Luther King’s civil rights activism began in the unwelcoming “Heart of Dixie” in 1955  when on a cold December evening  Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger, birthing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott was the first of what would be many historic marches and protests that would catapult King onto a national stage. His acts of civil disobedience in the 1950’s and 1960’s help elevate the country’s moral consciousness as Alabama struggled with hers.  Sadly, in 2016 Alabama is still struggling.

So, when on January 6th the state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered all probate judges to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in spite of last June’s historic Supreme Court ruling — Obergefell v. Hodge — that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states I wasn’t surprise.  Rather, I was immediately reminded of Governor George Wallace’s 1963 famous inaugural speech when he unabashedly uttered “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” in defiance of SCOTUS’s historic “Brown vs. Board of Education” ruling upending this country’s “separate but equal” doctrine adopted in “Plessy vs. Ferguson”

When on January 8th the Mobile County Probate Office reopened its marriage window and resume issuance of marriage licenses I remembered I was asked by an editor from the UK “what would be MLK’s thoughts about the modern LGBTQ movement and the place of  people of color in it?”

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 Bayard Rustin, I, too, wonder would King today be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights?

King’s now deceased wife would say yes.
In 1998, Coretta Scott King addressed the LGBT group Lambda Legal in Chicago. In her speech, she said LGBTQ rights and civil rights were the same. “ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King’s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people,” she said.

Speculations on what King views would be vary within African American LGBTQ communities. But an overwhelming number in these communities look more to Bayard Rustin- then and now- than to King as a spokesperson for supporting our civil rights.

“I tend not to worry much about what MLK would do. I tend to look at someone such as Bayard Rustin as one prime driving force in civil rights and other activism. Rustin was there before WWII. And he never wavered, always looking for something new. It was Rustin who schooled King in Gandhi’s ideas. Rustin has simply said that the GLBT movement is the inheritor of civil rights activism in the US...I’ll stick with Bayard,” a blogger wrote me.

Sadly, Bayard Rustin, the gay man who was chief organizer and strategist for the 1963 March on Washington that further catapulted Martin Luther King onto the world stage, was not the beneficiary of King’s dream.

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.