Thank goodness for the National Black Justice Coalition. The Rev. Eric Lee‘s position as the Los Angeles chapter president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is now being threatened by the national organization for his outspoken advocate of marriage equality. Dr. Lee was very visible during the battle to defeat Prop 8, and the SCLC has sought a hearing, demanding that Rev. Lee explain his position on the issue. I have no idea what explanation is needed, because the right to marry is a civil right, but Rev. Lee should not be reprimanded or lose his job for fighting for equality under the law.
NBJC’s Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Interim Executive Director and Director of Religious Affairs and Constituency Development, has written a letter to the SCLC’s CEO, Dr. Byron Clay, to remind the national organization (founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), that ignoring equality for all is not an option and that Rev Lee’s position is consistent with the mission of SCLC. The letter:
Dr. Byron C. Clay
President & CEO
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
320 Auburn Avenue NE Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Dear Dr. Clay:
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is disappointed that the National Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) seeks to hold a hearing demanding the Rev. Eric Lee explain his stance on same-]sex marriage. It appears that this is being used as a formality in a precursor to firing Rev. Lee as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Chapter of SCLC for voicing support on Marriage Equality as a civil right.
The SCLC should not create an employment environment that creates discrimination based on one’s personal values and beliefs. The loss of income to Rev. Lee and his family, particularly in these hard economic times, reflects the risk that LGBT people and our straight allies face in standing up for equal rights for all. Rev. Lee opposes discrimination where he sees it, noting any time you deny a group of people the same rights that other groups have, that is clear violation of civil rights.
NBJC rejects SCLC’s efforts to remove Rev. Lee from his position. We ask that SCLC reconsider, and support him as he continues to fight for equal rights for all. NBJC calls on SCLC to make a resolution affirming your commitment towards Black LGBT individuals as they pursue full civil rights that others would deny them. NBJC also seeks and has garnered the support of other civil rights organizations on this matter. We intend to ask each of these to affirm LGBT rights as being encompassed in civil rights.
Times are changing. We as black LGBT people are seeking our rights to marry. We are proud of who we are and what we do. We love our family, friends, relatives, community and the church. We ask that those who oppose gay marriage sit down with us at the kitchen table to discuss LGBT issues and our authentic lives as God’fs children. We know that we can and will find a common ground where African Americans of goodwill can understand the true lives of the LGBT community.
NBJC would like to offer a meeting with the SCLC Board on marriage equality and on LGBT rights in general. Many have come to see that LGBT rights and Marriage Equality are the next phase of civil rights. In fact, we believe that challenging homophobia is part of the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement.
Please let me know the best time to begin our dialogue together. Our NBJC board and staff support Rev. Lee and looks forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.
Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Interim Executive Director
The National Black Justice Coalition
Cc: Rev. Eric Lee
SCLC National Board of Directors
You can also send a clear message of support for Dr. Lee to SCLC president Dr. Byron Clay, calling on the organization to support LGBT rights as part of its civil rights heritage.