Unfortunately, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we honor today, was assassinated before the gay rights movement became a force on the American stage, so we’ll never know for sure what he may have done to further the cause of gay and lesbian rights had he lived. The person who knew him best, his wife, Coretta Scott King, was certain, however, that King’s legacy was equality for all. To that end, she dedicated much of her time to LGBT equality issues before her death in 2006.
"Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others”, she would tell black civil rights leaders angered by gays and lesbians comparing their struggle to their own. She would quote her husband and say, â€œI have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.”
She also fought off bigots who would co-opt MLK’s message and try to make it their own. In 2002, anti-gay advocates sought to repeal Miami-Dade Countyâ€™s equal rights law by sending out fliers saying that King would be outraged at its gay-inclusive nature. Coretta responded through a statement put out by the King Center for Nonviolent Change saying, “I appeal to everybody who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.as dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbians and gay people.” When George W. Bush came out on the White House lawn and, in a bid for reelection, told the press he supported a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, Coretta again spoke up and reminded America of King’s legacy:
“Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”
She had many close gay friends, including one Winston Johnson, of Atlanta:“Johnson, who is gay, met Mrs. King right after the assassination of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They became close friends and he eventually helped her begin her vocal gay advocacy after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in in 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick â€” a case that arose from Atlanta that it was within a states right to arrest gay people who violated the states sodomy law.”