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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Death of a Civil Rights Icon

She was a major advocate for lgbt equality

By Steve Charing

Ironically, on the day Judge Samuel Alito was confirmed as justice to the Supreme Court, the civil rights movement lost one of its shining jewels. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., passed away on January 31 at the age of 78. She had suffered a severe stroke and heart attack in 2005.

You won’t see it in many of the obituaries that simultaneously expresses sadness for the loss and exults her life’s work in the civil rights movement, but Coretta Scott King was an enormous beacon in the quest for equality for lesbians and gays.

"Once in a lifetime God grants us with the ability to witness an extraordinary life dedicated to justice," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "With Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., God smiled on us and fortunately granted us two." He added, "She saw justice as a birthright and lent her voice as a relentless advocate for all fair-minded Americans, gay or straight, black or white."

Through the years, Mrs. King stood for lgbt rights when other leaders chose to side step the issue. She took the bold stance in equating the struggle for lgbt rights with the civil rights movement for African-Americans. In 1998, Mrs. King said, "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. ... 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," she implored." Mrs. King resolutely supported ENDA, a federal bill prohibiting anti-gay discrimination.

Mrs. King was a mighty advocate for same-sex marriage and railed against constitutional amendments that would ban such marriages. "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said in 2004. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

Her passing is a loss for all humankind, but she left a legacy of being such a strong, graceful force for justice and equality. She will be dearly missed.

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