By John Blake, CNN
(CNN)– Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was writing an advice column in 1958 for Ebony magazine when he received an unusual letter.
“I am a boy,” an anonymous writer told King. “But I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don't want my parents to know about me. What can I do?”
In calm, pastoral tones, King told the boy that his problem wasn’t uncommon, but required “careful attention.”
“The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired,” King wrote. “You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”
We know what King thought about race, poverty and war. But what was his attitude toward gay people, and if he was alive today would he see the gay rights movement as another stage of the civil rights movement?
That’s not the type of question most people will consider on this Monday as the nation celebrates King’s national holiday. Yet the debate over King’s stance toward gay rights has long divided his family and followers. That debate is poised to go public again because of the upcoming release of two potentially explosive books, one of which examines King’s close relationship with an openly gay civil rights leader, Bayard Rustin.
The author of both books says King’s stance on gay rights is unclear because the Ebony advice column may be the only public exchange on record where he touches on the morality of homosexuality.
Yet King would have been a champion of gay rights today because of his view of Christianity, says Michael Long, author of, “I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters,” who shared the story of King’s Ebony letter.
“Dr. King never publicly welcomed gays at the front gate of his beloved community. But he did leave behind a key for them - his belief that each person is sacred, free and equal to all to others,” says Long, also author of the upcoming “Keeping it straight? Martin Luther King, Jr., Homosexuality, and Gay Rights.”
Did King’s dream include gay people?
One person close to King, though, would disagree.
Rev. Bernice King led a march to her father’s graveside in 2005 while calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. She was joined by Bishop Eddie Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Church in Georgia, where she served as an elder at the time. Long, who recently settled out of court with four young men who filed lawsuits claiming he coerced them into sexual relationships, publicly condemned homosexuality.
King did not answer an interview request, but she has spoken publicly about her views.
During a speech at a church meeting in New Zealand, she said her father “did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.”
Yet her mother, Coretta Scott King, was a vocal supporter of gay rights. One of her closest aides was gay. She also invoked her husband’s dream.
Ravi Perry, a political science professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, said King’s widow once said in a public speech that everyone who believed in her husband’s dream should “make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”
There is no private or public record of King condemning gay people, Perry says. Even the FBI’s surveillance of King’s private phone conversations didn’t turn up any moment where King disparaged gay people, she says.
“If Dr. King were anti-gay, there would likely be a sermon, a speech, a recording of some kind indicating such,” she says. “And knowing how closely his phones were tapped; surely there would be a record of such statements.”
Those who say King did not condemn gays and would have supported gay rights today point to King’s theology.
Though King was a Christian minister, he didn’t embrace a literal reading of the Bible that condemns homosexuality, some historians say. King’s vision of the Beloved Community – his biblical-rooted vision of humanity transcending its racial and religious differences – expanded people’s rights, not restricted them, they say.
Rev. C.T. Vivian, who worked with King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, says King would have championed gay rights today.
“Martin was a theologian,” Vivian says. “Martin starts with the fact that God loves everybody, and all men and all women were created by God. He based his whole philosophy on God’s love for all people.”
King’s relationship with ‘Brother Bayard’
Those who say King would have championed gay rights also point to King’s treatment of one of the movement’s most important leaders, Bayard Rustin.
Rustin was an openly gay civil rights leader who is widely credited with organizing the 1963 March on Washington. He was an organizational genius, the man who insisted that King speak last on the program, giving his “I Have a Dream” speech the resonance it would not have had otherwise, says Jerald Podair, author of “Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer.”
“He was the kind of guy who could tell you how many portable toilets you needed for 250,000 people in a demonstration," Podair says. “He was a details guy. King needed him for that march.”
But Rustin could do more than arrange a demonstration. He was also a formidable thinker and debater. He was born to a 15-year-old single mother and never graduated from college.
The movement was led by intellectual heavyweights like King, but even among them, Rustin stood out, Podair says. He read everything and was a visionary. One aide to President Lyndon Johnson described him as one of the five smartest men in America, says Podair, a history professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
“People who heard him speak were transfixed,” Podair says.
Rustin became one of the movement’s most eloquent defenders of its nonviolent philosophy, says Saladin Ambar, a political scientist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
“He was one of the few individuals not afraid to debate with Malcolm X in public,” Ambar says. “Rustin more than held his own and really challenged Malcolm to push his thinking.”
Rustin was a special assistant to King and once headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. During the planning of the March on Washington, King resisted calls to jettison Rustin because he was gay, Podair says.
King, though, didn’t speak out on behalf of gay rights because he was doing all he could to hold the movement together, historians say.
He had to constantly fend off rumors that the movement was infiltrated by communists. He was also criticized for expanding the movement to take on poverty and oppose the Vietnam War.
“The movement superseded any discussion of gay rights,” Ambar says. “King was dedicated to the cause at hand.”
With all that was going on, King couldn’t afford to wage a public campaign defending Rustin’s homosexuality, says Vivian, a SCLC colleague of King’s.
“Any employee that would employ a gay person at the time who was outwardly gay would have problems,” Vivian says. “I don’t care if you were the president of the Untied Sates, you would have trouble doing that.”
After the 1963 March on Washington, Rustin remained as King’s adviser. The two, however, drifted apart when King became more radical during the last three years of his life, says Adair, Rustin’s biographer.
When Rustin died in 1987, he was starting to receive attention from gay and lesbian activists who linked civil rights with gay rights, Podair says.
Rustin was a late convert to their cause.
“He never put it [homosexuality] front and center,” Podair says. “He never politicized it until the end of his life. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”
It’s no longer unusual today for gay and lesbian activists to draw parallels between their struggles and King’s legacy. Vivian, King’s SCLC colleague, says the comparison is apt.
“There was a time when black people were afraid to be themselves among white people,” he says. “You had to fit a stereotype in order to be accepted. They’re going through the same thing but now they feel better about themselves.”
Vivian says the movement shouldn’t be limited to race.
“As we were freeing up black people, we’re freeing up the whole society.”
Long, author of the upcoming books on King and Rustin, says King’s vision transcended his personal limitations. Maybe he could have said more to that anonymous boy who wrote him at Ebony. But he did leave him a key to the Beloved Community– even if he didn’t realize it at the time, Long says.
Now, Long says, it’s up to those who claim King today to use that key.
“A turn of that key and a gentle push on the gate, swinging it wide open so everyone can enter into the Beloved Community,” he says. “That’s the best way to advance the legacy of Martin Luther King.”
There is a place in the west village that has a bust that was owned by MLK's lover amoung other items. Who could have guessed MLK liked men and woman.
He swung both ways. That said, he was also a work in progress. Hard to tell where he would have wound up politically in 2012
His legacy gets bigger and bigger every year! Thanks to his family looking to cash in! According to news reports he had a mistress with him at the time of his demise................... No different than politicians today.
You need more dots.
The politicians that people most admire had mistresses. Doesn't mean much of anything other than ALL his needs were not being met by the wife. That's life.
I b cebrate MLK day wif smokin crack.
nice try troll. you're racist post has been flagged. say bye bye to it you troll.
Every time I experience a searing, hot burst of flatulence I am reminded of Sarah Palin.
MLK would be so proud of all the black rappers and their streams of profanity, vulgarity and Oprah/Gayle gay relationship. Yes the black folks are so upstanding and above reproach...
If so, he would be even more proud of the way caucasian-america still has jealosy toward people of color; the murderous nature of this caucasian-dominated world; the warmongering; assasinations of foreign, sovereign people by caucasian "soldiers"/assasins who urinate on dead bodies; presidents who get bj's in the oval office and lie about it; he'd absolutely love Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and the rest of the racist hate groups that exist today with the help of the Federal Government, led by caucasians of every denomination; King would enjoy the Robber-Barons who charge Blacks higher interest rates than caucasians with the same credit rating...Need I go on jack-wad..
Black people never claimed to be above reproach, nor did we claim that we were perfect. We just wanted to be treated equally, and to have some pride in our heritage. We still have that pride, but the generations are totally different and grew up in different times. Rap and Hip Hop came after civil rights. BTW anything that doesn't follow society's rules of what is appropriate is considered obscene or vulgar just as it would be in any other society or race. So take your generalizations elsewhere.
wow p41, that was some hate your spewed there. I agree that redneck white people should all be eliminated from the breeding pool, but your generalization of white people and soldiers is akin to a redneck's generalization of blacks.
Olive you really are an idiot.
Mlk was an iconic leader who given his position as pastor of a church, and given the climate at the time was most probably not concerned with gay rights. In the 50's and 60's it would have been extremely rare to find any Christian clergyman who would openly be for gay rights. Based on the Bible I believe King would have hated the sin, not the sinner.
But interesting enough...in the 50's and 60's. Alter boys were probably being molested in the Catholic churches...and makes you wonder if MLK might have known it was going on..but never stood up for it.
@Jeff, you are an idiot. MLK was christian not catholic. if he knew that clergymen were molesting children he would have stood up and protected the children.
Thanks for leaving an intelligent comment. It is the most literal, fact-based comment on here.
On MLK Day everyone guesses what his position would be on various issues. Hard to say.The man was changing. Before his death, his interests were moving from civil rights for Blacks to economic equality for all (e.g. the social responsibility aspect of capitalism). He was becoming a champion of economic justice just before his death.
I wish mahtin wuz still here so he could hump my manHole.
I too am celebrating the DEATH of MLK!!
HIP HIP HOP HURRAH!!
Your Dad must have been a closet gay.
...my dad certianly was.
reported. say bye bye to your racist post.
MLK spoke like his mouth had been filled with doo doo. I think he liked it.
It looks like the "doo doo" is coming out of your mouth.
Mario, a la Gladys se le puede venir una basca de mugre!
reported. say bye bye to your racist post.
Dr. King's children have turned his priceless legacy into a business. They are materialistic clowns and their father would be deeply ashamed of them.
Yes...and they love lie, cheat, steal and eat doo doo.
my 3-year old says doo doo. what the hell is wrong with you?
God's word: Love the sinner. Hate the sin. All humans except one are sinners. Love them all. You don't attach sin to the sinner and say you must love the person's sin too.
Which human wasn't a sinner?
Mary is said to have been immaculate....
Jesus Christ doesn't count as He is technically a demi-god and not a human.
Love it....the bigots way to get around the whole "I hate gays" thing and still feel righteous.
Your religion is your personal opinion. Please stop talking like it applies to anyone other than yourself.
Jesus never said hate the sin, love the sinner. It isn't in the Bible but nice try.
You can't love a person and discriminate against them. You can't...
...take away their livelihood ($6,000 extra in taxes "unmarried" gay couples pay each year)...
...take away their right to adopt an unwanted child (as several states have done)...
...take away their kids' right to grow up in a family that is treated equally...
...discriminate them in the hundreds of ways I haven't mentioned...
and say that you love them.
Stop believing in the "hate the sin, love the sinner" crap that they shove down your throat at church.
Stop lying to yourself...and others.
Religion = lame and contradicting.
TK, there is no such thing in the Christian sense. You need to seriously go to whosoever.org/v6i6/cindy.html and spend some time in quiet introspection and ask God to remove your prejudice.
He was a womanizer and that should be part of his history that is also taught to his young followers, but the complete truth is never taught.
They should releae the MLK tapes of him saying during sessions with white women..."Im phuckin for Jesus."
Just like the complete "truth" about America's Founding Fathers and their love for slavery is not taught.
Etta, it seems you have a problem because the women were white. Would you have even made your ignorant statement if they had been black? Can you think of a better use for a white woman?
Martin was just another lying communist.
and you know this how? Don't believe everything you read on the internet because when you regurgitate baseless accusations like that you sound like an idiot.
I'm concerned about Nat. You're flagged for rasicm against white women. When you hear the knock on your door, do the following; assume the position, swallow all the evidence, and say "oh no you didn't." You'll be fine.
how about this racist. just 50 years ago racist rednecks were water hosing blacks on the street because they wanted to vote. If MLK was a womanizer, so what? you are a racist pig who probably enjoyed watching blacks get brutalized by rednecks.
Religion, is the something more wrong then that in the know universe? only a barely functioning sub-human with a IQ in the single digit will beleive in such a ridiculous concept. There seem to be a unlimited supply of that..... the results are sometime horrible like Islam and never good (catholic abusing boys). Religion, in any form or shape, has yet to commit a single good deed. Since it was created for contol mass of simpletons.
So says the super genius who isn't even able to string together a grammatically correct paragraph.
So you are a faithful follower of atheism?? Which means what? You believe in relative truth? Or no truth at all??? I would love to know...
@hahaha... I am an atheist and I would Love to talk to you about your ignorance!
Matt- I am always open to hear people's ideas and beliefs- it doesn't sound like you are open to anything- typical of most of the atheists I have had discussions with. Are you actually an atheist or agnostic? Do you know for "SURE" there is no God or are you not sure there is no God?? Big difference....
hahaha... There is no evidence for gods, so I do not believe in them, simple as that... I think the god hypothesis is too simple for our complex uni/multi-verse
And your entire comment is completely ignorant, since you have NO idea what an atheist is... You probably think evolution and climate change are 'liberal hoaxes' as well... What a shame that people do not understand the REALITY of science...
Matt- The fact that you think the "GOD" Truth is far to simple to explain the universe is a self defeating statement. So in your mind the complexity of life and the universe was created by pure luck.... "just the right elements...." That is by far a much more simple "WAY OUT." Rather than reserach what SCIENCE has said about the truth of what is written in the bible about Creation. You choose the easy route and say by dumb like I am here.... Come on man, you can't believe that. How could pure dumb luck create a being capable of what mankind has accomplished and will accomplish. We are set apart in His image. Nothing else exists like us...
Matt- just to you point that I have no idea what an atheist is... An atheist doesn't believe in God or God's... They don't believe in absolute truth or absolute right/wrong. Plain and Simple- In a world based on chance there can be no absolutes and no hope....
You're actually right: Chance did not get us here! Big Bang, Cosmic evolution, and biological evolution did... Thanks for proving my point!
And atheism/theism answers: Do you believe in god/gods?
Gnosticism/agnosticism answers: Is there a god?
They answer 2 TOTALLY different questions
Matt- If you want to talk evolution, I would love to go down that road... I am guessing you think man came from apes or birds, right?? And I am guessing your hero is Darwin, right?? Have you read Darwin's theories and come across the one major problem w/ his theory? So much of a problem that he even pointed out himself...Essentially in order for evolution to be theoretically true in ALL things (which is what you are saying). The buiding blocks for life and parts of it must fall in chronilogical order of existence. But one very quick look at the human eye will prove this theory false. Their are parts of the eye that would have needed to exist prior to their need in order for earlier parts to be "CREATED" from other parts. IMPOSSIBLE according to Darwin himself....
Matt- You do understand that the Big Bang is a liberal creationist view of the beginning right??? It sounds like you think that this is an atheist view of the beginning. In the Big Bang something caused the Big Bang and created the particles needed for creation and the bang.... Are you sure you are an atheist or actually agnostic?? Do you believe something created the first particle or did it come from.....???? You tell me
Wow, you are the most ignorant person that I have talked to in a long time! You have NEVER picked up a biology text book apparently! WE DID NOT FREAKING COME FROM APES, WE EVOLVED FROM A COMMON ANCESTOR! And I have no idea where you are getting your sources, EVERY SINGLE CREDIBLE SCIENTIST UNDERSTANDS EVOLUTION! EVOLUTION IS A FACT! Read a biology textbook and learn some science before you want to ever argue with the big boys!
Matt- Evolution is not fact, parts of Evolution have some factual information in them- True. But evolution as a macro proposition is not a fact and HAS never been proven to be. There are A LOT of theories, but nothing in stone. So in your arguments w/ believers do you use any facts or is it all opinions and then throw on "everyone is doing it" so it must be true statement. Now I will agree and say micro evolution has much more truth to it than Macro Evolution. But micro doesn't say we came from a common ancestor or being. Or that once that cat was a dog or a fish...A cat has always been a cat or some kind of cat as has a dog. Now are there changes within that species, sure, but they are all still cats or dogs... just like man has always been man.
I am guessing since you have read EVERY credible scientist's take on evolution and never found ONE of them to question it then you must have just glossed over the tiny hole that they all have in their proof and they all know about.... And I am guessing (I don't know them so I can't ask) if you asked them about the "missing link" in their macro evolution theory, you would probably realize, that not a SINGLE one of them can prove evolution because of the millions of years of missing fossils no one can seem to unearth.....Pretty important if you ask me....
wow, matt and hahaha really went at it. give them both credit for their perseverance. lol
I understand your feeling about the abuses of religions. I understand and tend to agree with you, but you make an absolutist position when you say, "Religion, in any form or shape, has yet to commit a single good deed. Since it was created for contol mass of simpletons." Maybe most religions are like that, or used like that but I know for a fact that the Quakers have done immense good with their teachings for peace and I was trained as a draft counsellor by the Quakers. Other religions, for whatever their motives have also done good deeds, so your statement about religion and good deeds is demonstrably wrong, regardless of whether you and I believe in religion.
Dear MLK, (posthumously)
"Abrahamics" like yourself believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.
o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:
“ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice. "
"Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8
See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
Of course, those g-ays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.
And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-s-ex unions not same-se-x marriages.
From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay se-xual activity is still mutual masturbation caused by one or more complex se-xual defects. Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.
Yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.
you are 100% correct. religious people who want to burn gays are ridiculous. simple logic dictates that God is punishing them for their genetic makeup that they had nothing to do with. That would make God an evil deity. The problem is that religious people are stupid. They do not understand logic so dont bother wasting your time.
he was for human rights, if he liked them or not, if he believed they have a choice in the matter or not are not being discussed here – he was for human rights and all people are human therefore be was for ga.y rights as well as straight rights – why, because both belong to the genus spe.cies ho.mo sapien and thats all that truly matters – its about respect and equality for people!
He was for anything because he had no moral compass.
Penny: your "moral compass" is hatred and bigotry. You are not a true Christian. Simple.
i love happy people
Coretta loved the fish.
MLK was a great leader but those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The fight for equality and basic human rights will go on as gay people all over the world find hope in MLK and his powerful massage. Gay rights = Human rights. I have a dream............
Jiff, thats lovely and might I add... *POOT* <-smell the gay buttFart.
its message not massage
I don't know. I heard he did give quite a powerful massage.
He was gay so he loved gay people.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.