It was an amazing evening with many old and new friends at Equality Alabama's Gala Saturday night. The highlight was keynote speaker Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who is a native of Troy, Alabama. His played a legendary fearless role in the civil rights struggles of the 60s -- and he is man who believes in LGBT civil equality with equal conviction -- he immediately signed on to DOMA repeal legislation.
This is significant in a day when there is a clear dearth of support in the religious black community; Lewis has the moral standing that a homophobe in the pulpit like Bishop Harry Jackson can never touch. John Lewis took batons to the head, was beaten to unconsciousness multiple times for equality -- courage and moral conviction that Jackson and his fellow charlatans of bigotry are bereft of.
Rep. Lewis spoke eloquently about the simplicity of the government staying out of the lives of gay and lesbian couples -- there is no need to "save" marriage from two people who simply want to love one another and be legally affirmed in the same way that heterosexual couples are when they marry.
But perhaps the most powerful message was to those in the LGBT community who are waiting for equality to come to them -- Lewis charged us to seize the moment, do not accept being told to wait your turn, to demand your rights through your representative, and most of all take personal responsibility -- the message we all heard was loud and clear. Too many LGBTs are in the closet waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting and LEAD. We are all capable of leading by kicking that closet door open. The main meat of the speech begins around 5:00 -- and you will want to hear it all. The man had the audience spellbound.
John Lewis could have let someone else take the baton to the head for his rights. He didn't; his rights were too important to him to NOT lead by example. I asked State Rep. Patricia Todd thought of his wake up call to our community. She agreed that there is no excuse for our so-called leaders, our elected representatives who say they are our allies but lack the political spine to do the right thing should watch this speech as required education. But we also noted to one another that even more critical was Lewis's call to you - those of us who rail about what someone else can do to lead or move the ball forward and don't step up, or take even small steps to be interested in determining the fate of your civil rights. Where is the fire in the belly of our movement? It's not in DC, it's all of you, if you choose to do a tenth, hell, one-hundredth of what John Lewis showed in terms of personal courage to fight for his rights against hostility day and night. The transcript is here.