Having finally settled what to do with the estate of her father, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, is free to get on with her life. Namely, to become head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the decades-old civil rights organization that her father once led. Late last week. Ms. King became SCLC’s new president, following in the footsteps of older brother Martin Luther King III. And it’s got plenty of folks wondering: After leading the fight with desegregation in Birmingham and spearheading the Selma to Montgomery 1960s marches, will the conservative SCLC join the gay civil rights fight?
The SCLC is in a state of demise, and its relevance being questioned on all sides. Whether Martin III was took over, he was immediately accused of inaction, and effectively forced out after a multi-year battle with SCLC members. His replacement, Fred Shuttlesworth, lasted less than a year. And now Charles Steele, Jr., the org’s president since 2004, will step aside for Bernice, SCLC’s first lady leader.
She’ll also be SCLC’s very public homophobe. As The Daily Voice‘s Earl Ofari Hutchinson reminds us, “in December 2004 … she and thousands of marchers stood at the gravesite of her father, Martin Luther King, Jr., and denounced gay marriage. The implication was that King might well have stood with her and them in their protest against gay rights.” An evangelical minister, it’s not terribly surprising to hear about Bernice’s proud bigotry.
It is surprising, however, to see the daughter of a civil rights legend, and one who worked alongside gays, take such a hateful stance on another class of people facing discrimination. With a brand new job inside a struggling organization, what better way to maintain relevance, and a mission statement, then acknowledge you’ve been wrong Bernice, and start fighting for the rights of your LGBT brothers and sisters? The NAACP refuses to join the same-sex marriage cause. And while we’d be shocked if you did denounce your own divisiveness, we’d gladly welcome you into the fold.