By Keli Goff
Originally posted at the Huffington Post
Days ago civil rights legend Julian Bond was honored at an all-star gala featuring tributes from Dave Matthews, Wanda Sykes, Stephen Colbert, and others. In addition to celebrating Bond's contributions to the fight for racial equality, the evening served as a fundraiser for a professorship to be endowed in his honor at the University of Virginia. The endowment will ensure that courses on the history of the civil rights movement continue to be taught long after Bond's retirement, an increasingly urgent concern, given that studies show that an alarming number of young people are blissfully unaware of the movement and its leaders. But the evening served another purpose: Bond was celebrated for being a trailblazer for his leadership on the issue of LGBT rights.
A number of high-profile contributors for the evening, among them news anchor Anderson Cooper and openly gay (and hysterical) comedian Kate Clinton, specifically cited Bond's courage on the issue of LGBT rights -- long before it was fashionable -- as being a cornerstone of his legacy. Yet while Bond may have been one of the first civil rights leaders to come out publicly in favor of LGBT rights, he is certainly not the only one. Congressman John Lewis and Coretta Scott King are among the luminaries to voice their support for equality for LGBT Americans. Before her death King was unwavering on the issue, saying, "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages." (Click here to read my interviews with various civil rights leaders on LGBT rights.)
Coretta Scott King's embrace of LGBT rights put her at odds with members of her own family, among them her niece Alveda King, a vocal anti-gay activist, and daughter Rev. Bernice King, who cancelled a scheduled interview with me regarding the new biography of her mother just minutes before it was to take place, when informed that I would be asking about LGBT rights. The reason I was particularly interested in asking King about the topic was that her recent public comments seem to indicate that she is "evolving" on the issue. Sound familiar?