It was a glorious day. The sun shone bright, the temperature was mild and it seemed like all of San Antonio had shown up for the 20th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March. People were in a great mood. Photos of the event which flooded the internet gave the impression the city was engaged in a great group hug.
One photo published on the Facebook page of KSAT-TV drew a lot of attention. It is an aerial shot of the march showing some of the tens of thousands who walked the route. The picture is memorable because there among the throngs, so large it is instantly visible from the air, is the Rainbow flag carried by activists.
It is a powerful image, one that is a tribute to the LGBT community’s integration into the larger community. However, not everyone on Facebook was happy to see the presence of a gay symbol at the event.
“Why are the gays & lesbians throwing their pride??? Today is NOT a day for that. I’m so sick of this, nothing against them but now they feel they can do this all the time,” read one disgruntled comment.
“Of course the homosexuals would be there. Shame!” wrote one black lady whose Facebook profile suggests she’s a devout churchgoer. “Why are they marching in a march that was based on equality and peace between whites and blacks?!”
Another comment echoed what scores of others were inferring: “MLK knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and he knew what it didn’t say about race. He fought for racial equality, not for the freedom to sin with impunity. Those who believe otherwise are ignorant of MLK and his God.”
A Flag Too Large?
The photo showing the half-block-long Rainbow flag unfurled at the MLK march might not have happened if not for the persistence of David Jordan Cisneros of GetEqual Texas.
“Roughly ten minutes after opening the flag, an MLK march marshal approached Ivan Juarez and told him it needed to be put away. That’s when I was called over. The marshal repeated himself when I asked why since it’s never been a problem in previous years,” Cisneros told QSanAntonio.
“The marshal said the flag was too large and would break up the parade too much, that it took up too much space,'” says Cisneros. “I asked him how this flag could affect the flow over 100,000-plus people and to show me the rule banning flags past a certain size. As he made a phone call to someone else, I told him not to make me sing ‘we shall not be moved.’ Then (he) walked away.”
Despite the hitch with the flag, Cisneros says the acceptance of the LGBT community at this year’s march was an improvement over his experience last year.
“The reception from others marching in the crowd and onlookers was much more positive than last year. I recall a group that walked along side us last year and as we chanted, ‘What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!’ They’d shout: ‘Never!’ This year, I saw young and old clapping, cheering us on, and even chanting with us.”
The Ivy Taylor Effect
In early January, QSanAntonio received an email from a reader who was unhappy that the publication’s web site had included the MLK march on its calendar of events.
Why was a gay publication promoting this march after Councilwoman Ivy Taylor voted against the nondiscrimination ordinance, the reader asked. Didn’t we know that Taylor is Honorary Chair of the city’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission? Didn’t we realize she betrayed us? Shouldn’t we be boycotting her event?
Taylor’s relationship with the LGBT community was already fragile prior to her vote on the NDO. In 2011, she sought the endorsement of the Stonewall Democrats but did not get it.
At the time, the San Antonio Current wrote:
“Perhaps what was most surprising about the day’s discussion was that a sitting council member like Ivy Taylor would expose herself as being so uncomfortable about LGBT issues. In response to a candidate’s survey, Taylor said that if she were endorsed by Stonewall she would not carry that endorsement on her website or campaign literature. ‘Many in our area would look at that as something that would be divisive,’ Taylor told the group.”
Last September, just minutes before the vote on the nondiscrimination ordinance, Taylor explained to the standing-room crowd in the city council chamber why she would not support the measure.
“My main concern has been that the passage of this ordinance may cause some individuals to have to choose between the law and their faith,” she said.
“As a person whose faith guides many decisions, I can understand that perspective. I also don’t think there can be agreement on what constitutes ‘discrimination’ and I don’t believe that people of faith should be forced to promote that which is in conflict with their basic moral values … I would not be able to sleep at night if I voted yes. It’s not just about me, it’s my job to represent my constituents.”
“I have sacrificed a lot to serve in this role on city council, but I will not sacrifice my core values and beliefs for political gain or to be in alignment with a particular platform,” Taylor added.
Skin versus Sin
There’s a slogan used in black communities among those who do not support the comparison of the LGBT fight for equal rights with the struggle for racial equality. The saying goes something like this: “Don’t compare my skin with your sin.”
Standing on the steps of City Hall last August, black pastor Charles Flowers, one of the main opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinance, reaffirmed this notion to his compatriots. “While we love the (LGBT) people involved, we cannot allow their agenda to stain the fabric, the tapestry, of the civil rights movement,” he said.
Flowers told the crowd that Jim Crow laws, lynching and slavery were not shared experiences with the LGBT community. He said lifestyle choices, not genetics, were the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Where Paths Converge
“Poor Ivy Taylor, caught between being politically correct and her church teachings,” wrote Brenda Johnson last summer on Randy Bear’s Concerned Citizens blog in an essay titled “Black Folk, the Church and LGBT Issues.”
“So many cannot understand why African-Americans cannot see the struggle for LGBT civil rights as the same as their own. To me the answer is as simple as it is complex: the church was front and center in the Negro struggle for civil rights in the 60’s; and it is front and center for many in African-American activism against LGBT civil rights now,” Johnson explained.
Her response to those who would use the bible to deny LGBT rights: “I suggest they heed Jesus’ own words on the separation of church and state: ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But now (or ‘as it is’) my kingdom is not from the world.'”
Johnson also recalled Bayard Rustin, the gay black man who was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“(Rustin) was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, fired from important leadership positions, and ultimately cheated from his prominence in civil rights movement history because he was gay . . . It’s time to honor Bayard Rustin as the architect for civil rights he was and support the LGBT community in their struggle for equal protection under the law.”
This article has been republished with permission from QSanAntonio.com.
Sam Sanchez is publisher and writer of QSanAntonio.com, an online source for LGBT news in San Antonio. After graduating from St. Mary’s University in 1975, he’s lived in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, while pursuing careers in publishing and marketing communications. He came home to San Antonio in 2006. Contact Sam via email or follow QSanAntonio by liking their page on Facebook.