Angry Ministers demand Civil Rights Movement Back from Obama and Gays

Angry Ministers demand Civil Rights Movement Back from Obama and Gays March 11, 2015


(Image Eneas De Troya CC)
(Image Eneas De Troya CC)

A new march on Selma commemorated its 50 year historical predecessor this week. With it came a new commitment to equality which beamed across Edmund Pettus Bridge and into a nation that once watched blue terror unleashed on its own.

Former President George W. Bush joined the first family for the celebration, Hillary Clinton was absent, and among the delegation were Civil Rights legends such as Representative John Lewis, whose own recount of Bloody Sunday poignantly reminded us of the struggle. President Obama delivered, what many have called his  “I have a dream” speech, which was delivered with a spirit of human community that cited all Americans as the beneficiaries of that struggle.

Some ministers however do not agree:

Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP):

“I marched with many people back in those days and I have reached out to some of my friends who marched with me, and all of them are shocked.. They never thought they would see this day that gay rights would be equated with civil rights. Not one agreed with this comparison.”

The President’s inclusion of a particular line in his speech rang particularly offensive to the ministers:

“Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was 30 years ago”

I knew that he would reach many Americans with those words, but cross a line for others.

Owens continues:

“President Obama is a disgrace to the black community… He is rewriting history. We didn’t suffer and die for gay marriage. We marched for opportunity, equality, justice, freedom from oppression. We are the true heirs of the civil rights movement. We have a new movement to reclaim the ‘real’ civil rights movement…/ “The LGBT community hijacked our movement, a movement they know nothing about… President Obama is delusional to compare our struggle with the struggle for marriage equality.”

Because the egocentricity of one’s mind will not allow for you to see the suffering that is not your own?

(Image via A.Jones. CC)
(Image via A.Jones. CC)


Civil rights are defined as rights imparted to all citizens and include political and social freedom, and the reciprocity of equality. When I was still religious, I didn’t particular like the idea of gay marriage, but it was hard for me to rail against it given my understanding of equality.

The Civil Rights Movement however,  was codified by names that almost started and ended with “Rev” – so I understand their attachment to the moniker. They believe its theirs. In an era where cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation, come to odds more frequently, this was almost predictable, especially when the anointed in the movement are seen as divinely inspired. Those “civil rights”, echo what the majority of the general population agree, should belong to everyone. On the subject of marriage however, the presumption of infallible Scripture trumps an amendable man-made Constitution. That whole “endowed by their Creator” thing – didn’t help either, it allows for the collusion of arguments. It becomes a question of what citizens are allowed vs. what the Bible restricts, ignoring that not all citizens are subject to Biblical Law. At the time however, the Movement profited by the legitimacy given to it through God’s Word – thus the Civil Rights are granted by God and delivered by His messengers. But in their piety, these reverends forget that they didn’t do this alone. Some of the freedoms sought by all came to fruition with the help of non-believers and other allies, which included names such as Bayard Ruskin, MLK’s top aide – who happened to be gay.

According to Bayard’s partner, Rustin was never ashamed of his homosexuality and opposition only came from leaders like A.J. Muste with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), who felt that homosexuality was an illness, asking Rustin to put aside for the sake of the movement. I can’t even imagine. The closest that I get is being told to suppress my “black voice” because its an inconvenient reminder that we’re not quite there yey.  Rustin had to work with people like Muste in the southern ministry, which MLK was a part of,  who aggressively denounced homosexuality. I’m left to ask if MLK, who was a conservative on many levels, would be lumped into that group? I don’t know. This was the man that wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail condemning that specifc leadership for its failures to act on civil rights issues. Their silence to him was unconscionable, when black children were being murdered in the streets – not unlike what we see today in places like Uganda where your sexuality determines your sentence.

Could Dr. King fight for one set of rights  – but in the same breath condemn others?

Did his dream includes support of this?

(Image via E.Barnes CC)
(Image via E.Barnes CC)

Or would cultural pressures eventually erode his dissonance enough to experience the same evolution President Obama says he did?

If you listen to the loudest of the clergy, no – he’s theirs and so is his ideology but they’re not the only voices. Coalitions in support of marriage equality, such as the Many Voice Coalition, assert “Together, we can achieve the justice and liberation that we so long for, affirm the lives of our gay and transgender brothers and sisters, and call the Black church into the full expression of God’s unconditional love.” This sounds like the beliefs that my MLK would have agreed with, but I’m reminded that even my history books didn’t tell the whole story.

Maybe he would have come along with the rest of the mainstream, including the over 53% of African Americans who Gallup now shows thinks “marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized officially and should have the same rights as straight married couples”. That’s in throwing range of the 60% of the rest of America. Black America is catching up on this issue!

Those numbers – blew my mind because homophobia and the black community have an unfortunate and very visible relationship which would lead you to think that being gay and being black, is incongruent (try throwing in nonbeliever for the triple play), but that’s not what the numbers suggest. If anything, they highlight the continued divide between some in the church (regardless of race) and the rest of the nation. It’s the same with the Latino community who almost mirror the general stats with only 34% opposed to same sex marriage.

So would MLK support same sex marriage? The question’s been asked. We won’t get an answer that we can agree on.

Before Corretta died, she stated she thought Martin would support same sex equality – but Bernice, his only daughter staunchly disagreed. I contend, that though difficult, change is possible. If Malcolm can evolve on the idea of race and even Reverend Sharpton can accept same sex marriage, then maybe there would be room for a Martin that accepted an unabridged version of his dream.

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