Opinion: Gay Rights are Civil Rights

Why every citizen of the US has the right to political, economic and social freedom, and equality under the law

I know many people in the black community will argue that they support LGBT people not being discriminated against in terms of housing and employment or subjected to violence. But yet the gay rights issue always seems to somehow return to a moral agenda wrapped around marital rights that has allowed state legislators to strip LGBT people of their economic rights.

In all fairness, there were a number of African American clergy that spoke out against the North Carolina amendment, acknowledging that it is wrong for any federal or state constitution to exclude any group from equal protection under the law. This is an argument that should center on legal benefits and not religious privilege just like divorce in the US is not governed by God-ordained doctrine. If it were no one would be allowed to end their marriage on the grounds of incompatibility or irreconcilable differences—only adultery.

No gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person is asking for anyone’s love. No one is asking for anyone’s permission to exist. That is a God-given right. But this is a fight about the right to exist without fear of persecution. In the same sentiment as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

There is sad irony in that so many African Americans have denounced gay rights as a civil rights agenda. Yet, it was an openly gay black man, Bayard Rustin, who was a key architect of the non-violent civil rights movement. He was a friend and advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also was the chief organizer of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.

It was Rustin who advised King on the use of nonviolence tactics as they organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and later protests, based on what he learned in India from followers of Mohandas Gandhi. It was Rustin in the forefront with Ella Baker in 1957 when King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) along with such religious leaders as the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Rev Joseph Lowery of Mobile, Rev. Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, and the Rev CK Steele of Tallahassee. So, yes it is fitting for gay activists to learn and benefit from the “Black” civil rights movement just the same as black civil rights activists learned from the nonviolence resistance of Gandhi in India’s successful fight for freedom from British control.

“Indeed, if you want to know whether today people believe in democracy… if you want to know whether they are human rights activists, the question to ask is, ‘What about gay people?’ Because that is now the litmus paper by which this democracy is to be judged.”—Bayard Rustin

Carolyn M. Brown is a Senior Multimedia Content Producer at Black Enterprise and author of the magazine’s GLAAD Media Award-winning article, “Black and Gay in Corporate America.”

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  • olivia pope

    I disagree with undertone of guilt trip and manipulation tactics on this article. I do not agree that gay rights sts the same as black civil.rights and I never will. .most blacks are the same way. And I find out absolutely deceptive of this writer to avoid our blatantly ignore how RACIST.most gay whites are towards blacks. Additionally, I’m pretty suck of gays acting like blacks are the only group opposing gay marriage. At least blacks are vocal just as just as the white church is on gay marriage. It is cowardice how gays conveniently ignores that must latinos, asians jews and muslims do not don’t gay marriage.

    The gay man helping in the civil rights movement was not an openly gay man was he? I suspect a lot of gays were still in the closet, hiding from their wives and girlfriend about being gay. Being black is not threw same thing. Gays like you can try to knit lint from a sweater to make it seem as if we have those in common, but you make yourselves look the fool. At the end of the day I choose NOT to support gay marriage and that is MY RIGHT. Don’t like it to bad. When gays start acknowledging THEIR ROLE in racism shady blacks,underhanded smear campaigns like this one shaking blacks as if, in order to have support by them, the rift will continue to widen. And I’m sick and tired of gays cowardly avoiding other groups that don’t support gay marriage. The more black supporters of gay rights keep pushing this issue, the more most blacks opposing gay marriage will dig in their heels against it.

    • Jimmy Harper

      There are still blacks opposed to interracial marriage. There are blacks that are prejudice toward whites. Where do you stand on those important issues? If you are going to take the speck of dust from your brothers eye, please remove the beam from your own first.

  • olivia pope

    ^ the & shaming.

  • Zeke S.

    Wow, first off Olivia please learn how to compose a sentence. Your post was darn near illegible.

    Second, you ask if Bayard Rustin was really openly gay? He was and the article told you so. Can you not read for comprehension? MLK was always worried that Rustin’s openly gay stance might be a problem for the movement. Eventually he chilled out because MLK had the wisdom to realize that discrimination is discrimination regardless of what aspect it took. So MLK kept Rustin as a much needed ally. Learn some history please, before proving how much of a fool you are.

    And don’t speak for me when you say most blacks disagree that gay rights are the same as black civil rights. I think they are and so do my family members and the black folks in my circle. Oh BTW, I’m not gay if you were wondering.

    Third, when and where do you get off with the statement “most gays are racist towards blacks”? Please provide some examples. Why do I suspect you have none? I’ve rarely seen this and so have you. You pulled that exaggeration right out of your butt. It’s this statement that makes me wonder if you are actually black. I think you’re some white supremacist homophobe pretending to be black to promote your agenda.

    Fourth, gays have always let their concerns be known with other groups other than blacks. What, have you just come to the argument on this. Get a clue will you. I live in NYC and gays and the Catholic Church have been battling for decades. You must live in some backwoods shack in Dublin, NC. Oh yeah, I know NC very well.

    Lastly, understand this. As long as gays are discriminated against then that that means anyone, and I mean anyone, can be discriminated against. This means you!

  • Kevin Patterson

    It is because of left-wing, pro-gay, anti-Christian propaganda like this that I no longer subscribe to Black Enterprise, Essence, or Ebony Magazine. Where do we draw the line America? Is there any social behavior considered wrong these days? It is okay to cohabitate outside of marriage. It is okay for two people of the same sex to have the same “rights” as a heterosexual couple. If everything is everything and we Christians have completely “misinterpreted” the Bible then why doesn’t our so-called God-fearing President campaign for polygamy and inter-species marriages, too? There are those who wish to have more than one spouse and those who wish to “marry” their animal “partners”. Laugh if you will, but this country is headed down a slippery moral slope into oblivion, not unlike the ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans before us. Until we can see and acknowledge the spiritual elements at work here, America will never recover economically.

    • Jimmy Harper

      Kevin: The Bible and Christian stance was used to support slavery and deny interracial couples from marrying. The manipulation tactics on the rest of your post don’t make sense…you’ve just stated that your wife is superior to a gay partner. You then equate a gay partner to multiple wives and then an animal. And final note: the Roman empire became Christian for a couple of hundred years BEFORE falling. Want to rethink your position now that it’s been shown as a lie?