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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The passing of a civil rights leader

       It is appropriate timing for President Obama to bring gay rights into the civil rights discussion.  In his inaugural address yesterday, on the Martin Luther King holiday, he twice mentioned gay rights as a civil rights issue.  In his his address he linked the struggle for gay rights with the women rights and civil rights movement by stating,
   “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.”
   Stonewall was the 1969 event that marked the beginning of the gay rights movement when gay patrons of a bar in New York were beaten by police.  The President followed up this reference with a further mention that,
    "It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
    A couple of weeks ago the gay rights movement lost one of its early leaders when Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG, died at age 92.   As reported in the New York Times at the time of her death,
       "In 1973, the Manfords and about 20 other people inaugurated Parents of Gays, a support program at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manhattan, which ministers to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregation. Given the vacuum of publicly identified gay allies in the early 1970s, the Manfords almost could not help taking on a national role. They spoke out for their cause through television, newspaper and radio interviews, according to a short biography of Mrs. Manford that accompanies her papers at the New York Public Library.
“The group sought to give parents a place to ask questions, talk about their issues and begin to better understand their children,” the biography continued.
     Representatives of parent support groups that had been springing up around the country met in 1979 to establish an umbrella organization. It took its current name in 1993 but is best known by the acronym Pflag. Its headquarters are in Washington. It has 350 chapters across the country and helps organize similar groups internationally. Mrs. Manford is identified as its founder."

     The importance of the gay rights movement including straight parents, relatives and friends can't be underestimated.  No civil rights movement can succeed until the general population recognizes and supports the importance the issue.  For the gay rights issue PFLAG provided that support that broadened the importance of the issue to the wider non gay population.  Gay rights moved from one of just individual right to one of family rights.  This movement has been strengthened by the increasing number of gay partners who have become parents raising families.  It has moved the discussion from whom you choose to sleep with to how you choose to raise a family.  Family values now takes on a meaning that is broad enough to include gay couples. 
    The struggle to move the gay rights agenda ahead in the next four years will continue to be a struggle that faces a determined opposition from the far right but with the Presidents leadership this issue will move closer to a time when we can look back and wonder why anyone opposed the issue as one of basic civil rights.

        Howard County has an active PLAG chapter.

A little Ravens humor


Anonymous said...

There's also determined opposition from the left- namely religious black democrats that do not appreciate the gay rights movement being linked to the civil rights movement.

June Horner said...

Beautiful Article.
Thanks for posting !