Human Rights, Homophobia and the Black Church

SCLC and Marriage Equality
posted by Melissa Harris-Lacewell on 07/13/2009 @ 7:59pm

The Nation - The effectiveness of the mid-century Civil Rights Movement rested on generating empathy among fair-minded whites appalled by the brutal mistreatment of black citizens in the South. One reason that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. targeted Birmingham, Alabama was his expectation that police chief Bull Connor's violent overreaction to protestors would elicit national empathy for the cause of civil rights and full equality. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a classic political treatise calling on the empathetic impulses of white church leaders.

This history of politics and empathy was violated by the SCLC this week. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization founded and led by Dr. King, is considering dismissing the president of its Los Angeles chapter because of his vocal opposition to Proposition 8. During the 2008 election the SCLC officially took a neutral position with regards to California's Proposition 8, which stripped gay men and lesbians of the right to marry. With his national organization silent on the issue, Los Angeles SCLC chapter president Rev. Eric P. Lee worked hard to oppose the measure. In a display of political empathy Lee explained "it was clear to me that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have that is a clear violation of civil rights and I have to speak up on that."

Now Reverend Lee has been summoned by the SCLC's national board to explain his advocacy on behalf of marriage equality or face being removed from his position. Read more.


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