COLUMBIA — “Racism hurts ALL South Carolinians!” read the rainbow colored sign carried by a gay South Carolinian on Jan. 21. Surrounded by thousands of marchers who turned out in the bitter cold to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy as part of “King Day at the Dome,” a group of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) supporters marched to the South Carolina State House grounds carrying rainbow colored pride flags, mini-HRC flags and hand made signs. One marcher, ears covered by a scarf pulled up around his face, carried a sign which read, “Thank you Dr. King, Equality 4 ALL!” Below the words was the unmistakable blue square and yellow bars of the HRC equality symbol.
We didn’t go to the NAACP sponsored rally to see Sens. Clinton, Obama and Edwards — although their speeches were amazing. We marched because we wanted to make a statement about our commitment to fighting for equality and to show our support of LGBT people of color who are so often overlooked and under represented. Of our band of 12 local activists from the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement (SCGLPM), none of us were African American, but that didn’t matter. We know that racism is a very real part of the LGBT community in South Carolina and we strive every day to fight the bias that segregates our community. We stood for our bothers and sisters in the cause for LGBT equality and racial justice.
We also wanted to show the media and the other marchers that the LGBT community of South Carolina is an important part of our state’s politics. Sens. Clinton, Obama and Edwards all spoke of equality, justice and peace. We hope they mean what they say. If we elect one of them to office, we hope we can count on them to help us pass both a trans-inclusive ENDA and the very important Matthew Shepard Act, as well as repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and ensure civil unions or full marriage equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender-identity.
As we honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Sen. Clinton reminded us of the equally important work of the late Coretta Scott King, who carried on the work of her husband long after his tragic death. We remember Coretta’s support for HRC and her challenge to America when she said “I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.” (Reuters, 3/31/98) We would add to that list, bisexual and transgender people, LGBT people of color and all other Americans seeking the same rights and privileges as their neighbors. We too have a dream for equality. Here’s to Equality in ’08!
— Ryan Wilson is the interim president of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement.