Our nation marked April 3 as a tragic day in our country's history, when one of our most historic leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on a Memphis hotel balcony. We mark the day; we do not celebrate it. But we dare not forget that this country's pattern of racism is not over.
As the head of a Metropolitan Community Churches, a multi-racial denomination with ministries in 37 countries, we know that Dr. King is known worldwide, and "We Shall Overcome" is sung in movement after movement that seeks freedom.
Last week the need for freedom and for challenging racism arose again. Leaders of a group that calls itself the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) were exposed for their plan to manipulate the religious sensibilities and identities of African Americans and Latino Americans so that marriage for loving, same-sex couples would become a wedge issue that would divide the vote of people of color in the upcoming election.
Through crass manipulation of people's deepest desire to serve God and be loyal to their communities, NOM hopes to compel people of color to make condemnation of loving gay and lesbian couples a marker for religious and racial/ethnic identity. This strategy aims to divide the votes of African Americans and Hispanic Americans -- and ignores the fact that all families and communities include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
In NOM's words, "The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks -- two key Democratic constituencies." In another memo: "The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future..." NOM wants to make rejection of marriage for same-gender couples "a key badge of Latino identity."
Dr. King faced interlopers in his day who used fear of communism to "divide and conquer" communities of color to make sure there was doubt and internal conflict rather than a cohesive struggle for freedom and justice for all. It is up to each community to expose the falsehoods on which these strategies lie.
Today, NOM's leaders and members want to convince this country that prejudice should be protected as a religious freedom, but NOM is not interested in protecting freedom; it is only interested in dissolving marriages and families of loving couples of all races who happen to be the same gender. And if you are not with them, they will say you are against Christianity.
A growing number of leaders know that justice is at stake for all of us. Coretta Scott King said, "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union." This year Dr. King's daughter Bernice moved away from her anti-LGBT stand to say that we need LGBT people to fulfill her father's dream of unity.
Today, churches must speak out and let the world know that the mark of a Christian is not exclusion and condemnation but love and respect for all of God's unique families. If we do not speak out, we will continue to be vulnerable to the machinations of political operators who would drive a wedge between us, not because they care about what is right, but because they want to divide our vote and turn us against our own family members and church members.