Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who died this week at 78, worked alongside her late husband in the African-American Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, and was tireless in the nearly four decades since in the efforts to commemorate his life, promote equal rights worldwide, and push for the end of poverty, hunger, and war. She was also a strong advocate for LGBT rights, including her public support for same-sex marriage equality.
Patrick Guerriero, head of the national Lob Cabin Republicans, noted that King, in 2004, spoke out forcefully against the federal constitutional amendment pushed by President George W. Bush to bar same-sex marriage. “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union,” the Log Cabin leader quoted her as saying.
Matt Foreman, who leads the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, recalled that King had been honored by his group in 1997 and that her family was responsible for securing him a speaking role at the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech” at the 1963 March on Washington. Lesbian activist Mandy Carter, also at the 2003 commemoration and pictured here with Foreman and King, said, “I’ll forever cherish the day that I and Matt Foreman, representing our lesbigaytrans community, got to stand shoulder to shoulder with her on August 23, 2003.”
The Black AIDS Institute noted, “Mrs. King boldly framed our fight against the forces that fuel the AIDS epidemic as part of [her] mission,” quoting her telling the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2001, “AIDS is a global crisis, a national crisis, a local crisis, and a human crisis. No matter where you live, AIDS is one of the most deadly killers of African Americans. And I think anyone who sincerely cares about the future of Black America had better be speaking out.”
Last Wednesday night’s meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, at which the party’s gubernatorial front runner, Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general, spoke, certainly received a lot of ink and hot links, but mostly because of the appearance of three would-be successors to Spitzer—former Clinton administration housing chief Andrew Cuomo, Sean Patrick Maloney, a gay attorney who also worked for the former president, and former Public Advocate Mark Green.
While the Gay City News story last week focused on Spitzer, The New York Times led with a dispute over whether Maloney and Green had in fact been invited to speak on an evening in which Cuomo was slated as the only AG candidate up to bat. Dirk McCall, the club’s president, was cited by The Times as complaining that Maloney turned a simple acknowledgement for being there into a chance to briefly address the crowd. Green was then invited to make remarks as well.
McCall was described as furious, warning that Maloney had hurt his chances for the Stonewall endorsement, a prediction he stuck with this week. But McCall acknowledged sending the gay Democrat’s campaign an e-mail, posted on the New York Observer’s “Politicker” Web page, urging him to be ready to speak for two or three minutes as long as Green was accorded the same courtesy. McCall insisted that he told Maloney at least five times that evening—after complaints from Cuomo—that he could not address the crowd, but also conceded that a Stonewall board member “egged [Maloney] on” in his effort to say some words. When supporters of Green learned that Maloney was at the meeting, they phoned their candidate, who soon arrived at the LGBT Community Center and was on hand when Maloney took the stage. Green then followed Maloney on stage.
Meanwhile, the Daily News reported that Cuomo, asked about the now-infamous posters from his father’s 1977 primary campaign against Mayor Ed Koch—“Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” signs littering Queens Boulevard and other locales—dismissed the issue by saying reports of it were “urban legend.” The News quoted an irate Koch as responding, “It either means he has amnesia or is deliberately distorting the truth.” The former mayor, of course, said nothing about the substance of the 1977 slur, but also took aim at Cuomo for his highly publicized divorce from Kerry Kennedy.
The Times fired back that Cuomo was not denying the existence of the posters, but rather any culpability that he, as one of his father’s top campaign lieutenants that year, or the former governor himself had in the matter. A transcript posted on “Politicker” backs up that version of the story—and corrects the Daily News quotation of “urban legend” as “folklore.” The Times reported that it had been pushed by Green allies to tell the same version of the story as the Daily News had.
Yet, Cuomo, as recently as 2002, did raise doubts about whether the gay-bashing of Koch ever took place. In an interview with this reporter on June 17 of that year, he questioned whether the incident had in fact occurred and then added emphatically, “If it happened, it did not happen from the Mario Cuomo campaign.”
Despite a last-ditch effort mounted by Massachusetts Democrats John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, the Senate Monday turned back an effort to filibuster the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the Supreme Court. Then on Tuesday, in time for President George W. Bush’s annual State of the Union speech, Alito was confirmed by a 58-42 nearly partly-line vote. Most Alito critics fault Judiciary Committee Democrats for failing to frame the key concerns regarding Alito—including his stated opposition to abortion rights, his aversion to expansion of individual liberties, and his strong bias in favor of enhancing presidential authority—during the new justice’s confirmation hearings.
Speaking for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Matt Foreman blamed last spring’s filibuster compromise by the bipartisan Gang of 14 for crippling progressives in the battle to stop a justice who represents “a devastating blow to individual rights, civil liberties, and equal justice under law in America.” Foreman said that any threat to the individual liberties, guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in turn could set back the struggle for broader LGBT rights.
Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, said, “With this confirmation, the Supreme Court likely will shift to the right and become a less welcoming forum for many kinds of civil rights claims. However, it is important for us to remember that the court still contains a majority of justices who ruled in favor of liberty and equality.”
“With the Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Alito, Americans are threatened with an unprecedented erosion of our rights,” said the Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese, who hastened to point out the need to cure the rightward drift at the ballot box. “Our opportunity to get back on the road to equality comes this November.”
President George W. Bush, sagging in the polls, mired in his foreign policy, and unsuccessful in pushing his domestic initiatives, used his State of the Union address Tuesday evening largely to defend his Iraq record and his controversial wiretapping efforts, but only advance a single new idea—that the U.S. needs to wean itself from its oil “addiction.” Apparently short on new proposals, the president relied on two old punching bags—judges and gays.
“Many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture and the health of our most basic institutions,” the president said, before equating gay rights with corruption in high places. “They are concerned about unethical conduct by public officials and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage.”
“The president outlined many challenges facing this country that are of concern to the American people but unfortunately felt the need to throw his base an unnecessary and divisive crumb,” said the Human Rights Campaign’s president, Joe Solmonese. “Trying to draw comparisons between the reprehensible acts of unethical politicians with fair and independent judges is both ridiculous and wrong.”
Solmonese credited Bush with raising AIDS in his speech, but noted that the administration is not fully funding federal efforts and continues to push abstinence as the key to prevention efforts.
Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire on Tuesday signed a gay rights law that passed its final hurdle in the state Senate last week, with a narrow margin of 25-23. On January 19, the state House passed the measure 60-37. Last year, the Senate rejected the same bill by a single vote after Microsoft Corporation withdrew its support in the face of right-wing pressure. Microsoft immediately faced an avalanche of protest from the LGBT community and reversed itself. The victory last week came in the wake of a change in position by a prominent Republican senator, Bill Finkbeiner of Kirkland.
365gay.com reported that the law, which is due to go into affect in June, is being challenged by Tim Eyman, a conservative activist who hopes to get the 112,440 signatures required in order to put it up for referendum in November.
At a January summit of the National Black Justice Coalition, representing LGBT African-Americans, the Reverend Al Sharpton challenged his fellow clergy in the black community to speak out against homophobia. “You cannot talk about civil rights and limit who’s included,” Sharpton told about 150 people at First Iconium Baptist Church, according to Associated Press. He specifically criticized what he called a “poisoned atmosphere” in black churches. NBJC came together several years ago in part to respond to the growing posture that some African-American ministers have assumed in the effort to block same-sex marriage rights.
In a new study titled “David v. Goliath: A Report on Faith Groups Working for LGBT Equality (and What They’re Up Against),” NGLTF’s Richard A. Lindsay and Jessica Stern examine 29 religious organizations—from large denominations to independent congregations—that provide what they call a progressive faith movement “parallel” to the well-organized, financed, and publicized Christian right anti-gay lobby.
“This report shows that some of the most important debate over lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality is not happening in Congress, but in religious denominations,” said Matt Foreman, the Task Force’s executive director.
The study’s key findings are that there are 8,300 congregations with 2 million adherents in the U.S. that support LGBT equality; there are 20.2 million people involved with mainline, mostly Protestant churches where key battles over ordination and marriage are being waged; and that within Protestant and Catholic churches, anti-LGBT forces are eight times better funded than groups supporting equality.
Army officials announced late last week that they are investigating charges that paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina appeared on a gay pornography Web site, which, while military-themed, made no mention of either the 82nd Airborne or Fort Bragg. The Web site’s registered owner has an address in Fayetteville, which is adjacent to Fort Bragg. Major Amy Hannah confirmed the investigation and that the suspects had been moved from their normal barracks, but would not name the paratroopers under scrutiny, or even say how many were involved. According to the Associated Press, an unnamed Defense Department spokesperson indicated that up to seven soldiers are being investigated. Hannah emphasized that their relocation was linked to concerns over their privacy, not their safety.
The Army is investigating whether the soldiers violated the military conduct code, which if they did appear on the Web site is a pretty good bet.
With “Brokeback Mountain” garnering the most Academy Award nominations at eight, the LGBT community seems definitively to have busted out of what the late gay activist and writer Vito Russo memorably wrote was Hollywood’s “Celluloid Closet.” “Brokeback” was cited for Best Motion Picture, Best Actor (Heath Ledger), Best Supporting Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Best Director (Ang Lee), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Larry McNurty and Diana Ossana), among other categories. “Capote” was also named a Best Picture nominee, along with nods for Best Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener), Best Director (Bennett Miller), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Dan Futterman). Felicity Huffman won a Best Actress nomination for her phenomenal portrayal of a transgendered woman in “Transamerica.”
Andy Humm will return next week.