By Bruce Poli, Executive Director, Equal Rights Foundation
In 1961, future U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark was sent to Mississippi for Civil Rights work by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
This was in anticipation of support for Kennedys’ political Civil Rights agenda, which led up to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the latter two of which Clark drafted and supervised under Lyndon Baines Johnson.
They changed America.
In the following years, hundreds of ‘white’ men and women flooded the South following the murder of three young activist workers in Mississippi (depicted in the film Mississippi Burning), under Alabama Governor George Wallace’s racist white supremacy rule.
White people were allies to black people in the 1960s. Without their visible public support, the two Presidents would never have been able or had the courage to pass such important progressive legislation.
My wife Suzanne and I have been involved with and supportive of Heritage of Pride, the LGBT Center and the LGBT Civil Rights movement since the mid-1980s.I believe it is true that allies are as important to legislative rights for the LGBT community today as they were to Martin Luther King’s movement in the 60s. And it is time for allies to become VISIBLE.
Despite the right to marry, the momentous celebration of World Pride last year, and seeming acceptance in NYC in 2020, gays still face homophobia, job discrimination and a variety of social barriers and fears which of course influence young people and the psychological composure of an entire sexual orientation in our country that has never been seen as ‘right in God’s eyes’ by millions. Far worse, transgender people are literally being killed every month.
Racism, sexism, hatred, bigotry, name it what you will—the human condition—is to defend itself against those not like us. Unlike African Americans, Latin Americans or any other ‘immigrant’ group, you cannot see Gay, though there is something called “Gaydar” (yes that’s short for Gay radar) which is being developed and promoted as an extra sensory perception.
One of the reasons I feel so supportive of LGBT rights is that I recognize a sophistication, intelligence and awareness that seems natural and inherent to the Gay community. Also, when we look at our culture, there have been hundreds of historic figures—from Leonard Bernstein to Edward Albee to Melissa Etheridge to Lily Tomlin—who have contributed to some of the greatest aspects of American culture, arts and science. We would not have the NYC / West Village character of American leadership without a disproportionate contribution by LGBT, Gay and Lesbian pioneers, artists and cultural leaders who have shone the light of human intelligence and awareness progressively upward.
Frank Kameny, the historical Gay activist famously held the sign saying “Gay is Good.” Gay is more than good; it’s the fabric of our beautiful diverse nation and we allies are responsible for stepping up and making ourselves known in the more than half century fight for LGBT equality.