This coming Monday, our nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 84th Birthday. For those who were born after his assassination and the major struggles of the civil rights movement, it’s hard to picture the world the way it was not so very long ago. However, for the LGBT community, the struggle for basic civil rights is still going on
This coming Monday, our nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 84th Birthday. For those who were born after his assassination and the major struggles of the civil rights movement, it’s hard to picture the world the way it was not so very long ago. However, for the LGBT community, the struggle for basic civil rights is still going on, and every day we are reminded not only of just how very far we have come in a short time, but also of how much we still have to gain. Discrimination based on race has been outlawed for years, however in the vast majority of these United States, it’s perfectly legal to discriminate based on sexuality or even perceived sexuality. 2012 was a great year to be gay, but mostly just for those lucky enough to live in a state that has legalized marriage or civil unions. What about the rest of us? We are still dreaming! Just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was when he was assassinated in April of 1968.
Although MLK said very little publicly or privately about gays and lesbians, one of his advisors, the man credited with organizing the 1963 March on Washington, was an openly gay man named Bayard Rustin. Yes, an openly gay, black man in the early 1960’s, hard to believe I know, but it’s true. In employing Rustin, MLK was far ahead of his time, he even resisted calls to fire the man because of his sexuality, something that was a real liability during that time. Rather than tell the history of MLK’s assassination, or enter into the argument about how Dr. King would feel today about the gay rights movement, let’s take a look at part of the famous “I have a Dream” Speech from August 28, 1963. As you read it, think of all the parallels to the LGBT struggle for civil rights. Are we included in King’s dream? Of course we are. Dr. King never spoke publicly disparaging our community, he would have had he felt we were not valued members of society or were exempt from his idea that all men are created equal. Remember that on Monday as you celebrate the birth of the voice of the Civil Rights Movement.
I say to you today, my friends, 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.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963
Let’s hope 2013 sees freedom come to all LGBT people, we have a lot to look forward to, so keep dreaming.