Pam Spaulding has an excellent post up reminding people that Coretta Scott King wasn't just "the wife of Martin," although she worked tirelessly to ensure his legacy was remembered -- including battling the unconstructed Southerners like Trent Lott who opposed the King holiday.
She was an activist in her own right -- and she didn't shy away from the "wedge" issues that the right tries to divide people over. As Pam points out, she took pains to argue that the struggle for gay and lesbian equality was a natural extension of the civil rights struggle. Here's King speaking to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2000:
[W]e have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say "common struggle" because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.
My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, "We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny...an inescapable network of mutuality. [...] I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be." Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.
King also became an eloquent and unimpeachable opponent of the death penalty. Every group opposing the death penalty has this quote by Ms. King on their site:
Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life, morality is never upheld by legalized murder.
She knew this better than any get-tough-and-fry-'em type ever could.
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.