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PLATFORM : We Cannot Stand for Freedom for Blacks and Deny It to Gays

July 11, 1993| The following is excerpted from remarks by CORETTA SCOTT KING at the Atlanta grave site of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on June 30

The arguments that have been raised in favor of the ban against gay people in the military are the same arguments that were so often raised against racial integration in the past. Then, as now, we were told that making the military services more inclusive would somehow diminish morale. Then, as now, we were told that military leaders were not prejudiced, but they were concerned about "others" who might feel that way. This is not much different from businesses which cited "customer preference" to justify their refusal to hire African-Americans to work in their stores.

The controversy over this issue indicates that homophobia, as well as other forms of prejudice and intolerance, are serious problems in the military services, as they are throughout our society. Educational programs about the destructive effects of bigoted attitudes should be made a required part of basic training for all branches of the services.

I strongly believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. As my husband, Martin Luther King Jr., said, "I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible." Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.

Lesbian and gay people have served their country with honor and courage in the military and other institutions since the early days of American history, and many have paid the highest price to defend the freedoms we cherish as Americans. I might also add that many lesbians and gays supported the African-American freedom struggle, and I am not going to turn my back on their movement for freedom and dignity.

The great promise of American democracy is that no group of people will be forced to suffer discrimination and injustice. I believe that eliminating this ban altogether will strengthen the military services and our country as a whole. So I call on President Clinton to stand firm against all forms of discrimination in the military and to accept no compromises that undermine the principles of fairness and human dignity. To this endeavor, I pledge my wholehearted support, and with this commitment, together we shall overcome.

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