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.”
5280, you are correcrt when you say we are born that way. We are all sinners
People need to get out the old Jonathan Edwards essay "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" to find out what awaits them. It's a wonder that God doesn't wipe humanity off the face of the earth tomorrow.
George, I can't believe you reported abuse on Pinkie Pie.
There is no such thing as sin. We aren't born sinners. I wish people wouldn't allow "God" to govern their lives, its sad to see.
I didn't report abuse on Pinkie Pie, and I don't even know who that is. It has happened that I reported abuse by mistake (instead of reply), but that didn't happen today. There is someone else with the name of George who is trolling me and maybe he did it. I don't know. But I do know that I don't report people for exercising their freedom of speech.
Fortunately, god is not as much of a prick as you are.
George, you just can't stay away. Can't get enough of talking about those crazy gays. The angry hands of god are down your pants; it's okay, we understand.
MLK did great things for this country. But lets not forget MLK was a pastor and in the eyes of a pastor being gay is a sin. This is a fact, nearly all churches teach this. MLK was a great man but he was not the man to look to for advice on how governments and churches see and treat gay people today. The United States is a "Free Country" or at least it is suppose to be. With that said let people be free. Turn the attention away from the gay people and focus on the people, churches and governments not giving these people the right to be free. Why not expose their hatred, incompetence for exactly what it is. Why are they not the ones being scrutinized for their racist hatred views ? If this country was truly free the faces of the guilty would be plastered all over the news. Not the victims of their hatred. Why not show the insurance companies, employers, churches, attachers who have discarded gay people rights. Why is the focus on the gay people and not the real criminals ?
(only for the "newbies")
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 differences. Some differences 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" to include pegging but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.
Its mutual masturbation even with sticking a pens into a vayjay.
Why would it matter if they use different body openings or facsimilies like hands, breasts, etc?
If you don't think married people should get each other off, what musty closet did you come out of?
Did you think s3x should only be about sperm and egg without orgasms those nasty things?
If married straight people are allowed to masturbaet the other, then why can't anyone else?
And I guess you hate personal mastrubation too. Well all i can say is you are a twisted little sicko who sits in a corner of a very large and cluttered closet.
This nut has been posting this same schtick all over this article and several others. I'm the one who yelled about pegging and he finally put it in there. LOL PUT IT IN THERE
(only for the "newbies)
With respect to masturbation:
Using Guttmacher Inst-itute data on birth control method failure rates, one is able to calculate the number of unplanned pregnancies resulting from the current use of male condoms. It is an horrific number of 1.2 million/yr. Even perfect use of would result in 138,000 unplanned pregnancies.
(And what is the abortion rate in the USA? ~1,000,000/yr CDC data.)
Conclusion: currently, a perfect barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one. In the meantime, mono-masturbation or mutual masturbation for heterose-xuals are highly recommended for those at risk. Abstinence is the another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?
Revisionist history – retweeking MLK to fit the new agenda.
Another Gay propaganda article by CNN. I am just waiting for the next news => Jesus Supported Gay People and then God is Gay. Go ahead CNN ...
well ya, this is cnn
Nobody forced you to read the article.
You're late, billy. It's all been said. Come up with something original or gtfo.
Actually, under the Abrahamic religions, God would have to do himself, since there are no other Gods to do the horizontal mambo with. At least under Polytheism, the Gods got to have weird relationships with each other.
Wrong yuppy. Yahweh had a wife. Her name was Ashura.
Jesus was gay. Its all right there in the new testament. He got off on feet stuff, had a boychik gang of twelve for quick and easy minyans, and nobody made a big deal out of that stuff back then because so many Roman Senators and Citizens were openly gay, bi, and lesbian. Or.gys were famous. You could walk around nikkid and go see a circus where they killed people for fun.
If you don't connect the depravity of the Romans with the times surrounding Jesus, then you are fooled into thinking it was all a big fantasy land where depravity never happened. It did. there was so much of it its one of the things Romans are known for and what religious poeple are known for too.
He's dead. People need to stop putting words in dead people's mouths and think for themselves once in a while.
Just Google "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab" study. It's basically a brain pathology. Oner should be fair to mental patients, but that's as far as I'd go.
Is this the third time you've posted this little tidbit, too? Can you not tell, at all, what you've already posted or is it that you can only run 56k out of your trailer?
Oh, wait, I apologize. We should be fair to mental patients. I'm sorry you're a stupid fck. I'll try and be nicer.
instead of some obscure study, read the American Psychological Associations or the American Pediatric Assoc position. Thats the results of all medical studies done in the last twenty years
Apparently you have never actually read the study itself. While it is an interesting hypothesis, it is clear that the data is nowhere near definitive. In short, they just didn't have the necessary data about what actually happened during the pregnancies AND the later orientations. Instead, they have a lot of guesses.
Well it is official; George can't stop thinking about Gays (see page 27). George I know I speak for many people when I say congratulations! Coming out is difficult, and at your age a little gross. Way to go! Rainbow Power!!
Damn, there has been some pi.ssed off craziness on this article. Everyone took the day off work and came over here to get mad.
MLK did what he could at the time for the better of all. Most of the presidential stand clear of this issue but the one who is willing to speak about it will earn the votes. The LGBT community will fight for justice by votes
I always remember my black friend who MYsaid, "Clifford, If you think being gay is bad try being black snd gay.My belief is that ENDA rights be fundamental since most people need jobs but the LGBT communty is not allowed common employment rights. Why get married if you can't find a job.
Where did Fred go? Between George and Fred I can stay amused for hours. Come on guys, keep 'em coming. You are hysterical. Go get those bad 'ol Gays and Communists!!
All we need is HeavenSent, and we'll have the unholy trifecta.
I am a little worried about her. EIther she changed names or she hasn't been posting....I need me some HS once in while. She might have gotten buried under her "stuff". She is hoarder you know. She might have got some moldy cheese or tripped over one of her dead cats!
Damn, you may be right. I think I saw something from her the other day, but...you know, it could have just been George. They have a similar nutty style. I just scan for the word 'carnal' to see who's around.
I don't think nor do I believe King would have been against gay rights. If anything I think he would have stood up for gay people and fought along their side. King believed in equal rights for all. No matter what your race was, or who you are, King believed that you should be treated equal. That's what he stood for, equality. On another note: Who are we stop someone from being with whomever that want to be with. We all have our own lives and as I see it two gay people getting married doesn't affect my life and its not hurting me. So honestly, Whats the big deal? Nobody is telling me that I should be gay or that I have to be gay, which I'm not. Let gay people get married and leave religion out of it. One can still believe in God and still be gay. Besides isn't that the whole point, that you at least believe in God. Which a lot of them do. We live in the free world, meaning that we are free to live our life however we see fit. We will always have gay people in this world, better start learning how to live with them.
being straight is determined by genes, hormone levels. being gay has the same physiology but its just that hormone levels are different. it is by no means abnormal. God has no play in it. Religion should keep out of it.
Sure, if you think any brain pathology is normal. Then again, what does "pathology" mean?
Pathology means whether you know how to post correctly on a fcking forum without looking so stupid that you embarrass yourself. You're trying so hard to look smart! Zazzagooboy, you go get a cookie!
It's time to spend some serious money on ending hom.os.exuality. It is a condition, not a choice. It should be treatable.
Ask the questions. Break the chains. Be free of religion in 2012.
You are insane.
You are an idiot and embarrassment to the human race. God I hope you have been fixed so this ignorance of yours can't be spread. Disgusting.
MLK was a Christian preacher who knew God loves all people. Loving people requires telling them, as MLK told that young boy, you are on your way to solving this problem by acknowledging that you have one.
Where can I donate to end you?
@Debra, yours and society's first step is to acknowledge being gay isn't a problem. It's inherent and the way you are born, just like having blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. American can't grow and accept everyone as they are until people realize it's not a CHOICE!!
@5280 Blue eyes doesn't make you want to do unnatural things with your privates.
Concerned, find something else to be concerned about. It's your definition of unnatural. I'm pretty sure you've done a few unnatural things yourself. As a matter of fact, there are people in this world who get crazy ideas the minute they see blue eyes.
@concerned you make me concerned.
As a Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for justice for all people which is consistent with the Biblical teachings of Jesus. Having said that, Jesus defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, there are no provisions for gay or lesbian marriage. Jesus is unambiguous about his definition. Dr. King would have maintained this position. He had no other alternative, because to do so would have been a rejection of the Biblical principles which he fought and died for. It is speculative to claim King would have affirmed gay marriage, that is all that it can be. The evidence points toward a different answer an answer consistent with adherence to Biblical instruction which rejects gay partnerships. Celibate gay/lesbian relationships are consistent with Biblical teaching. Best, Douglas
First of all, skip the "DR". It was in divinity, so it doesn't count. An internet degree for $5.00 has more value.
Well written Douglas. Thank you.
A brain pathology has nothing to do with civil rights. All mental patients deserve a fair treatment. But there's no need to go further than that.
Finally got my statement in, not once, but three times Wow!
It is far more likely that believers have the mental problem, especially given that medical professionals have determined that s3xual preference is not a mental illness.
Hot air – wrong. It's funny how science progressed since 40 years ago! Get updated.
A quick visit to the American Psychiatric Association's web site indicates that they have not changed their stance. Please elaborate on your view.
Just Google "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab" study. It's basically a brain pathology.
Basically? That's the best you can do, 'basically'? How long and hard did you look to find something that fits your worldview, you loser? How many things, exactly, do you like to research long and hard? How long, and how hard?
I could not find a single article or claim linking that study of possible cause to pathology. Please provide clear evidence of your claim.
He can't provide anything – he's not even smart enough to post here without repeating it over and over.
Thanks for agreeing "they were born that way". The study you cite does not use the term "pathology".
And since every species on the planet exhibit the behavior, it's not even close to "pathology". Too bad you are so idiotic as to think all men and women only do 1 thing, in the missionary position.
A brain pathology has nothing to do with civil rights. Of course, all mental patients deserve a fair treatment. But there's no need to go further than that.
A brain pathology (ho-mo-se-xual-ity) has nothing to do with civil rights. Of course, all mental patients deserve a fair treatment. But there's no need to go further than that.
Hmm...seems like by posting the same thing three times in a row, you have proved yourself to be mentally deficient. I suppose we should be nice to you now? You can never get married, though. Those are the rules.
Not my fault. It was getting deleted, moron.
Obviously it wasn't getting deleted, now, was it, mouth breather? It's that you don't know how to use a computer and refresh a page properly. Now we're really worried about your deficiencies. Whatever point you were trying, poorly, to make, is long lost in your inept display.
YOU are the moron. There is a word filter. Fucking idiot.
An inconvenient truth
He wasn't from 2000 years ago??? Well that screws up my whole time machine theory. Dammit.
Pretty clear how he felt about it since he called it a problem that needed solved by the young man. 2 guys can't procreate nor can 2 girls, therefore....it is not normal.
It doesn't mean that they should be treated less but quit trying to prove it is normal. A 3rd grader can figure this out.
Procreation is way overrated. And I'm begging you, especially, to avoid it at all costs for the good of the human race.
What would you tell your child if he or she told you he was gay? Sorry, you aren't normal because you don't bang girls? What's normal? Get over yourself and contributing to society governing everyone else's actions. It's pathetic.
you worship form over function. a pharisee. you think teh outside matters even though it doesn't. Get a clue.
So I guess a hand job or fapping is an abomination because hands are not vayjays. boy are you stupid.
gay is as gay does
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.