While reviewing some speeches for a class I teach on leadership, I was re-reading Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech. One segment, not usually heard during re-broadcasts of the speech, caught my attention. It spoke to me about my position on gay marriage. The question about whether to accept civil unions as a stepping stone to full marriage rights has been hotly debated among gays and lesbians. Although I used to go back and forth on this issue, during the past few years I have stood firmly in the belief that we should settle for nothing less than full equality. Dr. King's speech has solidly galvanized that belief.
With a few simple substitutions, it's easy to relate Dr. King's passion to gay America's current situation:
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
Unfortunately, we have not done enough revolting. Gays and lesbians have not been sufficiently malcontent. We have failed to grasp the "fierce urgency of Now." We are far too complacent. We are content to be the modern Sambo, the helper to the straight man and woman: the servant, the maid, the footstool, whose only value is in helping straight people to get a leg up on us and others.
We are also too divided. Our national organizations are not sufficiently united and some have lost their way. We, as a community, fail to come together and agree on what is important. We fail to realize that while I may not want something, it can still be good for others. And, if I support a cause that doesn't directly impact me, my brothers and sisters should do the same for me. We also face a silent enemy; we must deal with traitors in our midst. Men and women, particularly those in power, who refuse to deal with their sexuality for whatever reason are a threat. This doesn't exclude the closet politicians who pass anti-gay legislation; every man and woman who fails to be honest and open about their sexuality (and I realize some for safety reasons cannot, but the vast majority of our people certainly do not have to fear this) damages our cause.
In ending, I'll now take a page from the flip side of Dr. King and quote from a less striden passage from Malcolm X's "ballot or bullet" speech. I've substituted "queer" for "black" and "straight" for "white":
Billy Graham comes in preaching the gospel of Christ. He evangelizes the gospel. He stirs everybody up, but he never tries to start a church. If he came in trying to start a church, all the churches would be against him. So, he just comes in talking about Christ and tells everybody who gets Christ to go to any church where Christ is; and in this way the church cooperates with him. So we're going to take a page from his book.
Our gospel is queer nationalism. We're not trying to threaten the existence of any organization, but we're spreading the gospel of queer nationalism. Anywhere there's a church that is also preaching and practicing the gospel of quuer nationalism, join that church. ... Join any organization that has a gospel that's for the uplift of the quuer man. And when you get into it and see them pussyfooting or compromising, pull out of it because that's not queer nationalism. We'll find another one.
And in this manner, the organizations will increase in number and in quantity and in quality, and by August, it is then our intention to have a queer nationalist convention which will consist of delegates from all over the country who are interested in the political, economic and social philosophy of queer nationalism. After these delegates convene, we will hold a seminar; we will hold discussions; we will listen to everyone. We want to hear new ideas and new solutions and new answers. And at that time, if we see fit then to form a queer nationalist party, we'll form a queer nationalist party.
Now in speaking like this, it doesn't mean that we're anti-straight, but it does mean we're anti-exploitation, we're anti-degradation, we're anti-oppression. And if the straight man doesn't want us to be anti-him, let him stop oppressing and exploiting and degrading us. Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man. If the late President Kennedy could get together with Khrushchev and exchange some wheat, we certainly have more in common with each other than Kennedy and Khrushchev had with each other.
The text for these speeches was found on American Rhetoric.com. You can read the full text of these speeches as well as listen to them at that website.