By Steve Charing
As we flip the calendar to a new year, we will be observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 16. I think of Dr. King a lot. I think of how his voice, if he had been given the chance to live out a full life, would have helped mute the voices of prejudice and bigotry throughout mankind that would also include those who are determined to thwart full equality for the lgbt community.
After seeing and hearing first hand the eloquence, class and style of his one-time associate, civil rights activist and NAACP chairman Julian Bond at the Equality Maryland Jazz Brunch this past November, I am reminded that Dr. King would have taken up our cause.
"Sexual disposition parallels race – I was born black and had no choice," said Mr. Bond during his keynote address at the Jazz Brunch. "I couldn’t change and wouldn’t change if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn’t a preference – it is immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us all against prejudices and discrimination based on immutable differences." Dr. King would agree.
A person who knew the mindset of Dr. King even better is his widow, Coretta Scott King. She also draws a nexus between the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans and the fight for lgbt equality. In 1998 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of her husband’s death Mrs. King reminded one and all that the civil rights leader’s memory demanded a strong stand for gay and lesbian rights. She said her husband's struggle parallels that of the gay rights movement.
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice," Mrs. King said. "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 brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
No one speech, no one event characterized and symbolized the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. more than his "I Have a Dream" speech presented at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in August 1963. This resounding speech in front of tens of thousands of marchers was credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The next year, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream," he said. As he then successively trumpeted each of his dreams, he envisioned a world where race and the color of one’s skin doesn’t matter at all and there would be freedom and justice for all.
Obviously I am not to be construed in any way with the vision of this great leader and his innate ability to bring to life America’s collective conscience. But in reflecting on the works of Dr. King and his followers, I would like to share (in no particular order) my dreams—my ideals—concerning the struggle for lgbt equality:
I have a dream that politicians will no longer use gays as a wedge to divide the nation and its people to serve their own ends.
I have a dream that religious institutions and individuals will stop cherry-picking Scripture to justify their prejudice and hatred towards lgbt people. Christians will cease being hypocritical and instead adopt the teachings of Jesus that foster love, acceptance and understanding.
I have a dream that when a lgbt child comes out to their friends, classmates and family, the reaction would be, "That is way cool." There will no longer be a need for Gay-Straight Alliances at schools throughout the land because there will be no further hostility and no bullying of lgbt students.
I have a dream that one day that the 500-chapter PFLAG—Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays—would close up shop and say "Our work is done." This would mean parents who have lgbt children would no longer need any emotional support since this occurrence would be considered as acceptable as having straight children. Parents will unequivocally remind their gay children that their love is eternal.
I have a dream that the scourge of HIV/AIDS will be eliminated worldwide and that people draw from the lessons of history and take better care of themselves and not take on needless risks.
I have a dream that rappers will tell stories of something positive in their lyrics instead of habitually condoning violence towards gays and women.
I have a dream that lgbt youth will not see all older gays and lesbians as predatory perverts and that the older ones do not look down on the youth as a result of the wisdom they accrued during their lives. There will be more intergenerational trust and respect.
I have a dream that organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force would go out of business because they have outlived their usefulness. All discrimination against lgbt people will have been forever wiped out. We should then thank them for their good works over many years.
I have a dream that the National Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network would similarly shut their offices when all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation in our military are eradicated. No more ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no more witchhunts, no more discharges. Any American citizen who is qualified should be allowed to serve his/her country in the Armed Forces.
And I have a dream that the terms "same-sex marriage" or "gay marriage" are everlastingly stricken from the lexicon. All couples who are committed to a loving relationship should have the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation and that lgbt couples fully receive the rights, benefits and responsibilities that are accorded heterosexuals. Marriage will be marriage in the eyes of our government, and the institution will be strengthened by the addition of lgbt couples.
As was the case of Martin Luther King, Jr., sometimes dreams will lead to reality, although it’s a long, evolving process. These are just some of my dreams. I believe Dr. King would have agreed.