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The amazing public turnaround of Bernice King on LGBT rights

“I know deep down in my sanctified soul that he did not take a bullet for same-sex unions.”
— Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King in December 2004.  She marched with the now-disgraced, scandal-ridden Bishop Eddie Long that year in a march against marriage equality.

In 2012, at Atlanta’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. rally, the public evolution of Bernice King shocked those in attendance. (GA Voice):

In a passionate, sermon-like speech about building unity, King said she didn’t care if people were Hindu, Buddhist, Islamist, were from the North side or the South side, were black or white, were “heterosexual or homosexual, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender” — that all people were needed to create unity.

LGBT people who attended the rally said they were shocked that King – who has a long anti-gay past — actually acknowledged the community in a public speech, but said they were also glad because it shows people can evolve.

As I noted in the 2004 quote, Bernice King was a congregant at Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. One cannot help but believe that that horrific scandal involving the prosperity gospel advocate had an impact on Ms. King. Long settled with four young men who accused him of being a sexual predator under the guise of ministering to them. As civil rights legend Julian Bond observed about Long in 2010:

“He said that homosexuality is worthy of death. He is a raving homophobe,” said the civil rights legend former longtime Georgia legislator. “If [the allegations] are true, it’s just sort of typical of people who are raving homphobes who are secretly homosexual. And who are homophobes because they are filled with so much self-loathing and self-hate that they’ve got to let it come out in some way, and it comes out in homophobia.”

In the wake of this, Bernice King left New Birth, and clearly, with her appearance at this year’s MLK Day, she wanted the public to see her evolution on the matter of the civil rights – and the inclusion of LGBTs in that social justice fight.

Paulina Helm-Hernandez, the LGBT honorary grand marshal for today’s march and rally, said she also was surprised to hear King’s inclusive words.

“I thought it was great. First time I’ve ever heard her say lesbian, gay, bi and trans out loud,” she said. “She said homosexual at first and then corrected herself. It takes a lot of grace to do something like that when you’re on a roll.

We have to allow for people to grow and learn, and it took courage for King to make her statement. With her declaration, we will now see if Bernice King follows the lead of her late mother, Coretta Scott King, and her late sister, Yolanda, in their advocacy of full equality for members of the LGBT community.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding