Civil rights includes gays 50 years after march - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Civil rights includes gays 50 years after march

Posted: Updated:
Bayard Rustin was part of the team who kept the 1963 March on Washington organized. AP Photo Bayard Rustin was part of the team who kept the 1963 March on Washington organized. AP Photo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Months before Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" declaration galvanized a quarter-million people at the 1963 March on Washington, Bayard Rustin was planning all the essential details to keep the crowd orderly and engaged.

Rustin, who died in 1987, is sometimes forgotten in civil rights history. As a Quaker and pacifist, he was often an outcast. Perhaps most notably, he was gay in an era when same-sex relations were widely reviled in American society. He served as chief strategist for King's march, over the objections of some leaders — but he was kept mostly in the background, with some organizers considering him a liability.

At the commemorations for King's march 50 years later, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will be included like never before in a sign of the civil rights movement's broad evolution. Rustin also will be honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

"In '63, we didn't talk about gays," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was joined by gay and lesbian activists in announcing plans for the gatherings scheduled Aug. 24-28 in Washington. "Bayard Rustin had to take a back seat. Gay and lesbian leadership stands with us and will be speaking this time."

Groups plan to bus in gay and lesbian participants from Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina and beyond. The planning groups include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Black Justice Coalition and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, as well as labor and teachers unions.

The Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, who directs faith partnerships and mobilizing at the Human Rights Campaign, said the inclusion of gay rights in the larger civil rights movement has been transformative.

Powered by Frankly