Even after his death, John Lewis continues to show support for LGBTQ rights. Yesterday, as the civil rights icon’s hearse made its way through Atlanta, on its way to the state Capitol, it paused briefly in the middle of the city’s rainbow crosswalks.
Crowds watching the hearse were moved by this simple but powerful gesture. They broke into applause and began singing ‘We Shall Overcome’. WSB-TV posted drone footage of the moment to Facebook. You can watch it below.
A Twitter user posted footage from the sidewalk.
— Pac 🏋🏻♂️ (@pacspad) July 29, 2020
The rainbow crosswalks were installed permanently at the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street in midtown Atlanta in 2017.
Lewis died July 17, aged 80, after suffering from pancreatic cancer. His body lay in state for two days beneath the Rotunda inside the Capitol in Washington DC earlier this week. He was the first black politician to be granted the honor.
Lewis was transported to Atlanta yesterday and his funeral will take place today. He served as a Congressman for the city for 17 consecutive terms: more than 30 years.
Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, and became actively involved with the civil rights movements when still a teenager.
In 1961, he was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders – a group who were beaten and arrested for using whites-only bus facilities in the southern US. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech, and in 1965, was among those to lead freedom marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
He was also a staunch and early defender of rights for gay people, co-sponsoring several bills to advance LGBTQ rights and giving an impassioned speech for marriage equality to the House of Congress in 1996.
“This bill is a slap in the face of the Declaration of Independence,” Lewis said of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). “It denies gay men and women the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Marriage is a basic human right.”
Lewis also regularly took part in Atlanta Pride marches. In 2003, in an editorial for the Boston Globe, Lewis said that, for him, fighting for civil rights and supporting LGBTQ causes went hand in hand.
“I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.”