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Will the gay MLK please stand up
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
November 20, 2006
As I sat watching groundbreaking ceremonies for the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. I was in a foul mood over a recent dust up over a San Diego appearance of Buju "Battyman" Banton, and the limits of free speech. Still I wanted to believe.
Listening to Oprah, I could almost feel the dream, I could almost feel history taking note. Vision and hope coming together as a beacon of accomplishment in the struggle towards MLK's dream of social equality. She looked good.
The glamor of the event evaporated when George W. Bush stepped to the podium. Reading from a prepared speech, the President acknowledged all the right people, waxed historic, and said all the right things. The puppet prince came to pay his respects, and preformed admirably.
His words actually made sense. For once, George and I were on the same page.
"Honoring Dr. King's legacy requires more than a monument. It requires the ongoing commitment of Every American. So we will continue to work for the day when dignity and humanity of every person is respected and the American promise is denied to no one," was my favorite.
"As we break ground, we recognize our duty to continue the unfinished work of American Freedom." and " There's still prejudice that holds citizens back." He said the words without any sense of irony which leads me to believe it was the first time he had read them.
This was the same George W. Bush who makes a habit of calling for constitutional discrimination against non-heterosexuals, by denying them full access to marriage under federal law . The same George W. Bush who has done nothing to end discrimination against gays in the military, or gays in the work place, or when seeking housing, or to visit an ailing partner in hospital.
My mood reflecting the gray skies over the Potomac. A cold and blustery morning, it was perfect for a cavalcade of hypocrisy.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with Rev. Martin Luther King when he was gunned down was also at the ground breaking ceremony. The Reverend Jackson has made it clear gays and lesbians civil rights "should not be compared to the fight African-Americans faced for civil rights."
Former president, Bill Clinton, the father of the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and signer of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996, was there to pay tribute in word and deed to the memory of MLK. Bill Clinton's signature, made the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial possible.
Bill Clinton signature also made sure the federal government does not recognize gay marriages, and that gay and lesbian partners of federal employees do not receive federal health insurance, Social Security or any of the other benefits given to the spouses of heterosexual employees.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s youngest daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, was there, has said she doesn't believe her father died to give homosexuals the right to marry, and supports a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. She honors her parents legacy by calling for discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Although soon to be set in stone, Dr. King's dream is not dead.
Coretta Scott King, a civil rights leader, and long-time supporter gay rights, often said her husband supported the quest for equality by gays. In April of 1998, King said "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Antisemitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and person hood...'This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group."
In November of 2003 Scott King made clear her position. "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
As long as the president of the United States of America can openly advocate for constitutional amendments limiting the rights of homosexuals, Dr. Martin Luther King's dream can not be considered fully realized.
Open targets of discrimination, Gays and lesbians face injustice everyday, and have no one to blame but themselves. To long complacent, full civil rights will not be given to gay and lesbian Americans until they demand them from their governments, and not be afraid to use the tools of Dr. King to achieve them.
The GLBT community is now the keeper of MLK's dream. It's time for a new generation of civil rights leaders to step up to continue the work of Coretta and Dr. King. We owe to them and future generations.