Of these things, I think he would be proud but not satisfied. King and his followers would not rest until equality was achieved for all because, as he said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” But what would King be advocating for? Civil rights, of course. The civil rights movement was concerned with securing equality of political, social and economic rights among all citizens of this country. That work is not yet finished. When I think of citizens deliberately being denied the rights offered to other citizens, my mind goes to the lesbian and gay community.
The gay rights movement is the new civil rights movement. No one connects these two movements like Bayard Rustin. He was a civil rights activist who, alongside King, developed the strategy for the Montgomery bus boycott and was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin’s influence and accomplishments have been left out of popular history because he was an openly gay man. He once said, “The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it’s the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated.”