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.”
g-ay people were born that way...just like some folks are born left handed,mentally re-tarded,down syndro-,straight,genius whatever.....its not a choice otherwise we would all choose ...none of us choose we all try to date,mate with the s-ex we are attracted to.
We used to bury babies in the sand who were, in various senses, "born that way".
And if one eats enough doo doo they will eventually come to enjoy it. Ya PERVERTS!!
With respect to the late Rev Dr King. He's no longer here to tell us his views, so stop putting YOUR words in his mouth.
Words were NOT put in his mouth. This article clearly labels as speculation how he would have felt and then presented evidence for both sides. That is what responsible journalism does. If that isn't what you are looking for, or you think CNN is "boring" please feel free to go to the places that are for entertainment, not journalism. You know, like Faux News
MLK loved burned weenee
(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 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.
as usual Reality nails it.;.....great post
"Yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male."
Hmm. So how do you feel about pegging, then?
Ah, Reality...you show your bigotry writ large today. Usually it doesn't show up in your walls of text, but when se.x is involved and the private rights of others, you show yourself to be the sort of person who is a dangerous busybody about things that are none of your business.
You are advocating for violating the rights of others, so shove your bigoted busybody bullshlt up your ass and try avoiding such errors in the future. You are in serious need of neuron cleansing. Clean the crap out of your head and join the rest of us or keep to yourself and quit trying to shove your narrow-minded tyranny into other people's lives!
Its the heteros who are having the gay babies.
Very inappropriate article. Today we celebrate MLK day for what he stood for during a trying time here in America. We today, cannot speak for those who are gone or try to imply that they, the dead, believed one way or another.
Mr. Tony is absolutely correct. It is at best irresponsible and also certainly disrespectful to try and put words into the mouth of a man tragically taken from us 44 years ago.
44 years is a long time. The Rev. Doctor was a very intelligent, a very thinking man. His ideas and opionions would certainly have evolved over the course of 44 years. In what ways and directions, we can not know.
No one gives a fck.
I am sick of everyone saying his views would have evolved. Or, MLK's mindset on gay being a "choice" was based on the then "societal norm" and he cannot be blamed for that. The societal norm or cultural norm in the early days of our country was the approval of slavery. In fact, the Bible itself supports slavery (just as the opposition to gay couples now and then is supported biblically). So why do we condemn the early founders of our country for supporting the societal norm, or not give them the benefit of the doubt that their viewpoint on slavery would have "evolved," and yet give MLK the benefit of stating that he only thought with the masses with respect to gay rights. In my opinion, "gay" is a genetic choice, and there's nothing wrong with it. It's not a choice, and MLK was wrong in his condemnation of gays and his belief it was a cultural disease and could be cured. He was wrong then, and would be wrong now. Don't delve into how he would have "evolved" without giving our founding fathers and early white men the same leeway.
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife.
I think the Ugandans have had it in mind to put such a thing into law. Do you approve?
No man with a defect is to come, whether a blind man, a lame man, a man stunted or overgrown, or with misshapen brows, or film over his eyes, or discharge from it, a man who has a scab, or eruption, or has had a testicle ruptured.
I sure hope you don't own a razor!
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard."
– Leviticus 19:27
Not quite. Keep reading. But how many do you need? Perverting the right ways of GOD is pretty easy to recognize.
Yes Peter, perversion is common enough, but what would you have people do about it?
Any excuse to run in and pretend the bible says gays are bad, huh? Aren't you a stunning little representation of light and righteousness! D'aww.
Right out of the Bible......God Bless you!
Judge not, lest ye be judged.
Enough said, if you have no brains or human decency, and have to rely on primitive folk legends to legitimaize you ignorant prejudices.
What does a quote from a fantasy novel have to do with anything?
The word 'abomnation' is used 65 times in the OT and 2 times in the NT. The only named abomination in the NT is Luke 16:5 where Jesus calls the love of money an abomination.
Seriously?! What about not working on Sundays and not planting crops next to each other and selling kids into slavery? Who the hell are you to pick and choose which rules are still in fashion and which aren't? Grow up and accept the fact it's not catching and stop being a bigot.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
@The one and only reference,
No, it is not "enough said" ... not by a long shot.
Why on Earth would you cling so tightly to that particular little ditty and reject so many others from that book?
- Do you require a rapist to pay the victim's father 50 pieces of silver and to marry the victim?
- Do you stone disobedient children to death?
- Do you wear cotton/polyester blends?
- Do you dip a live bird in a dead bird's blood to cure leprosy?
"Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”"
My children already get stoned, Mr. Bizarre.
"It is sad that a man would look to a thousand year old book to tell him right from wrong, when the real answers are written in his own heart." One of my favorite quotes, from the visionary jim tom.
If god was real and "he" was opposed to being gay, than maybe "he" shouldn't have created them that way, or even allowed those inclinations to even formulate in their minds in the first place. Quite the cunundrum.
God bless you all!
which god? I prefer Odin, but they're a dime a dozen so take your pick.
Pele has already blessed me. And Pele told me that the Christian god is a joke that the other gods invented to see just how stupid humans could be.
He placed in the soul of man a will. God permits every person to choose his own path. God Himself has authority to choose whether He will do something or not. Thus, God created man with the right and responsibility to make important choices for himself. God could have created man so that he would (automatically) do His will, and not have any choice in the matter. However, God gave to man a free will and the responsibility to choose for himself whether to obey God. God did not want to create a mere machine (robot).
Riiiiiiiight. If you're gonna follow that one, though, don't forget all the other rules you're likely breaking every day! You're not just picking and choosing the ones you agree with, are you??
All hail the Ori...
@BobBob – "E pili mau na pomaika'i me 'oe"
He was a gay, doo doo eatin fool.
Well, Dr. King did state that he believed that being gay was "culturally acquired". IMHO, that would mean that if alive today, Dr. King would claim that being gay is by choice, not by birth. That would be counter to the gay rights movement.
However, if Dr. King's wife supported gay rights, I cannot believe that she would not have been quite persuasive on, at least, Dr. King's public stance.
If he were alive today, he would have been exposed to much more information and studies. At that point in time the APA still thought it was a mental disorder, they realized it was not in the 70's. I would think MLK would have evolved with the times and information.
Does 'culturally aquired' mean that all gay people are really straight people acting gay for kicks?
To all who beleive that Gays rights are the same should be ashamed. No gay right was held back because of color no Gays have the right to even compare what Dr,.King betrayed. Dr King was a man of God so he would beleive the writings of who said what about gays and what god wanted. He is a christian and did beleive in the word. So what kind of perspective did Dr King give on gay rights? Never heard that speach and never will as he was against color discremination and bigotry of color etc.. He was dealing with a broader perspective than if one wants to not produce children. NOT ethically sound to misguide his perspectives on Gays to equal rights for those of different color. Tell me what perspective did Dr king have not his wife but the man himself. He didn't preach anything in regards to gays..
How about we just celebrate MLK day...
Seriously, does a day go by that there isn't a 'gay' article?
On the internet? No.
It's a relevant question because MLK was against discrimination.
Complaining aboug gay articles is so gay.
What better day to talk about these things than today? People, all people, deserve to be equal. If its not appropriate to talk about it today, a day when we commemorate a man who gave up everything for others, when will you talk about it?
I believe that if Dr. King was alive today, he would be throwing up, seeing what the chosen abnormal lifestyle movement has become.
If you believe that you have chosen your s3xual orientation, that just means you are bis3xual and have chosen nothing.
If Dr. King was alive today, he would be happy to see a black man as President, but dishearten by all the blacks who are still living in poverty.
Why? Because Americans finally are out there supporting their right to be free? I bet you are one of those who wants to limit the freedoms of those who do not agree with your point of view or values. Luckily there are those that see that freedom for all means ALL, not just a few.
Salt Lake City is a horrible place. Mormon capital city of greed, bigotry, and oppression. I do not envy you being lost in that place if that's what you mean by "SLC."
why even send this article out today...stop trying to take away from the man on his day..
Why feature it at all. Stupid idea!
Always interesting to hear people say, "Because he never said anything against it, he must have been for it."
The logical extension of loving your fellow human beings is to ignore their physical actions and to love the person without regarding what they do in private as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else – who you would also love as a human being.
Jesus is said to have given this sort of commandment on "God's" behalf, yet so many "Christians" have never examined the logic of their concerns and their emotions as regards the actions of others.
Thus we have wars and bigotry, violence and hate.
Instead of love, many "Christians" only practice a form of modified hate and ignore the basis for all human interactions and the "love" they were "commanded" to feel towards others.
Honestly, why does it matter? CNN stop trying to divide the people. Everyone has their own opinions and difference.
Yup, just like slavery and abolishing it...everybody had an opinion. Geez.
I think he meant what he SAID and not what his wife says. stop stretching the truth. these are two completely different equality issues. Race and attraction are far from the same
Both suffer discrimination and hatred for something they can't control. They are two equality issues and the similarity is equality of civil rights.
Race is a misnomer that is encouraged by bigots who think they are a separate "race" from everyone else or that there is such a thing as "race" beyond the human genome.
The melanin content of your skin says nothing about you but that your skin has a certain level of melanin content. Nothing more.
Everyone is an individual, and we all share a common heritage. This heritage includes a predilection for irrational and erratic thinking processes. Until we stop using the word "race" we will not move forward beyond a certain point.
What about what GOD, said oh!!! or is it most of you don't beliveve!!!!
You can use the Bible to support slavery. I don't think MLK interpreted the Bible or God like you do. God created and loves everyone, even the gay ones.
Your religion is your personal opinion. It should carry no weight outside of your own head.
I think MLKjr was more like President Jefferson, who tossed most of the Bible out of the window and just went for the ideas that were the nicest to think about. A deist who preached equality and did not give the OT any countenance.
That this undercut his claims to "Christianity" doesn't detract from the fact that his views on equality were universal to the human frame of reference as regards human rights and were focused on the inequalities that "Black America" were experiencing in every level of society due to the melanin content of their skin.
I think it is a little bit of a stretch to pontificate whether or not MLK would personally support gay rights.
The conversation, and article, should be more about drawing the parallels between the two movements.
An example would be Employment Non-Discrimination Act and bi-racial vs. gay marriage. Things that haters oppose in the gay rights movement with exactly the same reasons they opposed them in the civil-rights movement. The opposition surely shows more of the similarities than the private thoughts of MLK.
all of this antigay talk os terrible. i am sure mlk would be angered by these hateful comments. all of you children need to grow up
I tend to agree with King's widow, versus his daughter. A spouse has more insight into the person than a daughter who has simply profited off her fathers name.
CoeRetta loved to munch the "blackened fish."
I thought this article was about MLK, not Rustin. This article appears as a means to use MLK to speak about Rustin. If you want to write about Rustin, write about him. If you want to write about MLK, write about him. This day is set aside for MLK, not Rustin.
I agree. Happy Martin Luther King Junior Day!
He was a good speaker and did a lot to help bring more equality to the public square for all people, including the LGBT community.
Even atheists have gotten a little breathing room against discrimination because of the Civil Rights movement.
Equal Rights is where it's at. This is one of the best holidays for that reason as far as I'm concerned.
Yet a relative of mine is working today. Why? Because his company is racist.
They do not observe this day because it is MLKjr Day and for no other reason than that (publicly).
Privately I'm sure they are rubbing their little greasy hands over their hateful actions and profits they get from doing that.
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.