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Just Happens to Be LGBT: True diversity in SA’s MLK march

Photo: Rick Canfield, License: N/A

Rick Canfield

LGBT groups at this year’s MLK march

Photo: , License: N/A


But if you look at the comment boards on some local media sites, there’s no shortage of remarks by people who seem to take umbrage at gays supposedly overtaking the event, making it about themselves, or—in the words of a few vocal opponents—disrespecting the very core of King’s Christian religious beliefs. The dominant point made by these commenters is that the march isn’t the right time or place to be promoting something other than the values preached by King in general, and black civil rights in particular.

I disagree with those remarks, as I think many people do. King’s message was foremost one of racial unity, but underlying that is a tone of embracing one’s brothers and sisters unequivocally. As an interesting aside, it’s worth noting that a “traditional values” group called the San Antonio Family Association stands along the parade route every year with a large sign stating “Man + Woman = Marriage.” Ironically—and perhaps tellingly—the group doesn’t walk with the MLK march, but stays put against the flow of the passersby.

One of King’s mentors, Bayard Rustin, was a devout Christian who just happened to be gay. He is often credited with introducing MLK to Gandhi’s practice of non-violent direct action; he was active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and he was a chief organizer for the famous 1963 March on Washington. Rustin’s close working relationship with King is sometimes used as justification that the civil rights leader somehow had no problem with homosexuality. Reasonably, especially given the time in which he lived, that’s a far-fetched claim, but certainly King must have seen Rustin as a human being with certain inalienable rights—including the right to march alongside him.

So let’s get back, once more, to the reason why the San Antonio MLK march is the biggest in the nation. Is it because the march commemorates a great man? A symbol of the past? Or is it because there is a living message—a message of equality that transcends the man and that flows through the crowd in a variety of ways? Isn’t that truly honoring the dream?

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