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Visions of peace and justice echo around the world

By Kerry Lobel
NGLTF Executive Director

As NGLTF's executive director, I have the opportunity to meet many interesting people. Some of them are cultural workers like Melissa Etheridge, Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck. Some are political figures like President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Senator Ted Kennedy. Others are local, state and national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered political activists like my colleagues that attended a recent roundtable organized by the Task Force Policy Institute.

But I have to say that a recent NGLTF event, Honoring Our Allies, provided some life-changing moments for me and those that attended. The honorees were the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney, the Mautner Project for Lesbians with Cancer and Coretta Scott King. Linda Chavez-Thompson, the highest ranking woman as well as a woman of color in the labor movement, accepted for Sweeney. Her remarks emphasized the important relationship between the labor movement and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Beverly Baker, the director of the Mautner Project, gave a moving tribute to lesbian cancer survivors.

The night, however, belonged to Coretta Scott King. Mrs. King has stood shoulder to shoulder with us as we work to envision and create a world based on social justice. She embraces the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people as part of the continued legacy of Dr. King's brave work. Her progressive vision of peace and justice echoes around the world.

In her acceptance remarks Mrs. King said, "I accept this award as a reaffirmation of my commitment to carry forward the unfinished work of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. My husband understood that all forms of discrimination and persecution were unjust and unacceptable for a great democracy. He believed that none of us could be free until all of us were free, that a person of conscience had no alternative but to defend the human rights of all people." She continued, "I want to reaffirm my determination to secure the fullest protection of the law for all working people, regardless of their sexual orientation... it is right, just, and good for America."

Mrs. King also acknowledged the contributions gay men and lesbians have historically made to the civil rights movement. "Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I will always remember and honor their contributions," she said. "It has been encouraging to see the growing participation of people of color in the leadership ranks of the lesbian and gay freedom struggle, and I urge you to continue making this movement a model of diversity."

Remarking on the criticism she receives for speaking out against discrimination based on sexual orientation, Mrs. King said, "I still hear from people who claim to be followers of Martin Luther King, Jr., but who think I should be silent about the human rights concerns of gays and lesbians. All I can do is tell these folks that the civil rights movement that I believe in thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion." She continued, "all of us who oppose discrimination and support equal rights should stand together to resist every attempt to restrict civil rights in this country."

The Right continues its attempts to pit people of color against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. As we witnessed during Honoring Our Allies, efforts to drive a wedge between us do not work. We stand united in our efforts to move forward a progressive agenda based on our shared values of justice, fairness and inclusion.

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"Eye on Equality" is a monthly column that discusses or gives commentary on national and state-level political events or provides a behind-the-scenes look at social movements and trends.


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