Coretta Scott King and family at the annual MLK Day March, 1998 / Atlanta, GA Photo: Cindy Sproul
table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people,” she remarked. Facing tough criticism for her views linking the gay rights movement to that of the Civil Rights Movement, King did not relent. She openly commented that her opponents were “misinformed” and that she was simply continuing her husband’s message of equality and inclusiveness. The African-American and LGBT communities lost a great advocate and visionary when Coretta Scott King passed away on January 30, 2006. Rev. Al Sharpton It’s reassuring when our minority is able to garner support from arenas where it is not necessarily expected. Case in point: the religious sector. Despite facing the obvious obstacles and harsh criticism from peers, Rev. Al Sharpton has strongly aligned himself with the LGBT community. He is a southern Baptist minister leading a movement to eliminate fear and prejudice against gays and lesbians from within the church. Working against generations of instilled tradition to help open the eyes and hearts of people who would not otherwise readily embrace such ideas, Rev. Sharpton’s message is clear and decisive.
As keynote speaker for The National Black Justice Coalition’s Summit on Homophobia in Atlanta, GA on January 20-21, 2006 Rev. Sharpton expressed marked opposition to the church’s stance on LGBT issues. “The black church must not be refuge for those who want to scapegoat and use violence on any community, including the gay and lesbian community,” he said. His goal is to place accountability back on the church as a whole by encouraging individual members and leaders to speak up for equality. “Martin Luther King, Jr. said there are two types of leadership — there are those who are thermometers, who measure the temperature in the room, and those who are thermostats who change the temperature. I come to tell you to be thermostats. Turn up the heat in the black church. Make these people sweat,” states Sharpton. He also offers criticism regarding the stances taken by several churches that he feels have given in to pressure from more conservative groups on the issue of gay rights, specifically those backing President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign to ban same-sex marriage. As a strong advocate for the LGBT community, Sharpton is building support in places often left unturned. The impact of his work will no doubt provide lasting foundations for the years ahead. ●● cont’d
Vol. 4 Issue 2 Summer/Autumn 2009 19
Heartland in Gay America