Civil Rights activist Coretta Scott King, who was also the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., had fought for the freedom and rights of many over the course of her life. Yet some have decided to distort her words in order to promote their own defenses of continued discrimination in the U.S.
Rep. Ross Spano (R-Florida) cited King on the House floor this week while giving an impassioned argument against passage of the Equality Act. The bill would end discriminatory practices in employment, housing, credit, and more for the LGBTQ community.
Spano used words that King had written in her book, “My Life with Martin Luther King Jr.,” to justify his opposition to the bill, reported ThinkProgress.
“Coretta Scott King wisely said, ‘Freedom is never really won. We earn it and win it in every new generation,'” Spano said. “[The Equality Act] is bad for freedom. You see, it would immediately expose churches, religious schools and universities and faith-based organizations to legal liability for simply following their earnest beliefs.”
Spano is incorrect in stating that the bill would force religious institutions to adhere to the non-discriminatory standards. Within the proposal itself, exemptions are made for religious schools, places of worship, and other faith-based organizations, allowing them to continue to discriminate if their faith proscribes them to.
The lawmaker made another mistake: King herself was an ardent supporter of LGBTQ rights.
In the 1980s, she counseled friends who had been affected by the AIDS virus, engaging them with projects that eventually led to the start of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. In the late 1990s, she spoke out against the mistreatment of gay and lesbian Americans, citing her husband’s civil rights work in the past.
“Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.,'” she said at the time, according to The Guardian. “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.”
And notably, in 1994, she was invited to join Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Barney Frank when the two announced the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would of, like the Equality Act, ended discrimination against gay and lesbian workers in the U.S., according to HuffPost.
Spano’s use of Coretta Scott King’s words to encourage others to vote against the Equality Act isn’t just offensive, but flat-out wrong. Were she alive today, it’s much more likely she’d have supported the legislation instead, based on her previous support of similar proposals in the past.
Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.