Today, as America has done since the contentious adoption of his birthday as a national holiday in the 1980’s, people around the nation are pausing to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and his crusade for civil rights for African Americans in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Initially derided by some fringe individuals as a radical communist, today Dr. King is often revered and, perhaps too often, is co-opted by those who wish to use his legacy to further their own agendas.
Now, I could speak about the attempts by both political parties to claim this revered American as one of their own (He spoke critically of both parties. That’s a simple fact.), but I won’t. Instead, today I will wade into the often contentious and unresolved debate on whether Dr. King would have supported Same Sex Marriage. Both sides of the argument do have solid supporting points.
On the one hand, MLK was a deeply religious man. Being a minister and heavily connected to God, many on the side that claim that in addition to his faith influencing him, a piece that the Reverend wrote in 1958 for Ebony also sheds light on what he would have thought and done.
In the article, an anonymous reader tells Dr. King that he “feels about boys the way he ought to feel about girls” and wants to know what he should do about this. In response, King said that the type of feeling the young man was having was “probably not innate, but something that has been culturally acquired” and that he was well on the “right road towards solving the problem,” Hmm.
That seems to suggest that the good Dr. would not have come down on the proponent side in our modern time. In contrast to Reagan who stated that homosexuality was innate, King felt that it was something learned from ones environment, thus putting him in a rather backwards mindset.
Or so it would seem. On the other side of the spectrum, those who believe that King would have supported gay people being able to marry point to his widow’s support for marriage equality and his own not always consistent following of the gospel. Most know that he engaged in extra-marital affairs and some, though not all are aware of the fact that King kept guns in his home for security at times of immense tension during his crusade for civil rights, clearly, a practicalist.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter whether he would have or would not have supported gay rights because, and I think I’m stating the obvious here, the man is not around to tell us what he would believe. People can try and speak for him, but ultimately they wouldn’t know either. We as a society need to stop trying to claim great men and great women who have passed on in attempts to further our own goals in the political realm. Such action is highly disrespectful.