Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., is scheduled to speak at Portland State University today on the legacy of her father, despite criticism from advocates who say she has offended the LGBT community.
“Folks in the community definitely have some issues with the comments [King] has made about LGBT issues in the past,” said Khalil Edwards, the head of the Portland Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Black Chapter. “That was really the reason we wanted to talk to folks at PSU, to share our concerns and get some understanding as to how that decision was made. People have been hurt by those comments and those actions in the past.”
It was reported by CNN that in 2005 King led a march to her father’s graveside with the infamous Bishop Eddie Long, and called for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. During another speech at a church meeting in New Zealand, King stated that her father “did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.”
This is a stark contrast from her mother, Coretta Scott King, who spoke to the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference in 2000, urging civil rights leaders to “make room at the table” for LGBT people. While MLK didn’t directly speak about gay and lesbian rights, his advisor, Bayard Rustin (pictured below), was openly gay and organized the historic March on Washington in 1963.
In an official statement released by the University, Jilma Meneses, chief diversity officer, stated, “Bernice King understands the concerns that people have over the march a decade ago to protest gay marriage. Since that time, however, she has changed her views and would not participate in such a protest today. A Baptist minister, Dr. King still has private religious concerns but no longer publicly opposes gay marriage.”
Instead of protesting the event, the PFLAG Black Chapter has decided to work with Portland State University in order to examine the intersections between Black and LGBT issues.
“How do we really capitalize on this moment and turn what could have been a negative situation into something where we all come out better for it, with a better understanding?” said Edwards.
Bernice King is also tangled in a legal battle with her brothers Dexter and Martin Luther King III over the potential sale of their father’s Nobel Peace prize and traveling bible.