This is so sad. Dr. King and Coretta Scott King are rolling in their graves over the way some of the members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization the slain civil rights leader founded, are treating the Rev. Eric Lee, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the org.

Lee stood up against many of his fellow members and opposed Proposition 8 in support of marriage equality. Now his status as a straight ally has  put his head on the chopping block for the small-minded, narrow-thinking people around him at SCLC. (NYT):

Mr. Lee said that his opposition to Proposition 8 had “created tension in my life I had never experienced with black clergy.”

“But it was clear to me,” he added, “that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have, that is a clear violation of civil rights and I have to speak up on that.”

In April, Mr. Lee attended a board meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo., and found himself once again in the minority position among his colleagues on the issue of same-sex marriage, but he was told, he said, by the group’s interim president, Byron Clay, that the organization publicly had a neutral position on the issue.

A month after that he was told to come to Atlanta to meet with the National Board of Directors. When Lee said he could not come on short notice he was sent two letters from attorneys for SCLC that he faced suspension or firing if he didn’t “explain himself.”

The thing is, since the chapters are autonomous (Lee was elected by a local board), it’s a question whether the national board can do a damn thing other than look like top-down homophobic bullies. Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, who is chairman of the local board has contacted the national board to clarify if any SCLC regulations have been violated — there has been no response.

Mr. Lee, the former pastor of In His Steps, an African-American Wesleyan church in Los Angeles that he described as “very conservative,” said he saw failures both in the leadership of the conference (“Dr. King would be turning over in his grave right now,” he said) and the largely white anti-Proposition 8 movement that did not more actively seek the support of church-going African-Americans.

“The black church played a significant role in Proposition 8 passing,” Mr. Lee said. “The failure of the campaign was to presume that African-Americans would see this as a civil rights issue.”

And he’s right. Anti-Prop 8 forces readily admit that outreach to the black community was poor or non-existent. The challenges of reaching the religious conservative black community (non-church attending blacks voted no different than the rest of the pop) are myriad. One approach that has been launched recently by Equality California and the Jordan/Rustin Coalition. This ad hits the mark, featuring, Xavier and Michael Boykin-Haggood, along with three of their five children, Dante, Emmanuel and Fatima, who live in LA’s Leimert Park neighborhood.

See it below the fold.

Michael (to the children): Has everyone said grace? Alright.

Xavier and Michael (nodding): We have five — five children.

Xavier: You know Michael and I have been planning what our day was going to be like for eleven, twelve years. And now you tell me I can’t get married? I’m free to love who I love.

Michael: At its core level it’s just totally unfair to actually take away anyone’s right[s]. And so I have no doubt that this will inevitably be turned back the right way.


* What Would MLK Say? Pastor Faces Ousting from MLK’s Organization for Supporting Marriage Equality

The Rev. Lee stood up for us. He went to No on 8 rallies, he spoke to the media, he spoke at protests, he spoke to Unite the Fight! In the video below, Rev. Lee gave us an amazing interview after speaking at Meet in the Middle in Fresno, CA, detailing why believes denying LGBT the right to marry is not only wrong, but unethical. It’s a MUST SEE.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding