Speaker at MLK Day service angers gay activists
January 21 2004 12:00 AM ET
At least one gay activist says it was wrong for a church leader to voice opposition to gay rights during a sermon at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service. Sheila Koger of Columbia, S.C.'s Bethlehem Baptist Church told a church service on Monday that the Bible does not condone homosexuality and that transgendered people confuse children. "If you don't got a womb, then you're a man," Koger told the audience during the service, sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "Martin Luther King was not talking about gay rights. He was talking about rights to have liberty. Don't forget, he was a gospel preacher." Bert Easter, president of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement, said King stood for all civil rights, including gay rights; Easter added that he would talk to Koger about her statements. "It really makes me angry that there is some [church leader] out there who thinks it's OK to bash gay people on Martin Luther King Day," Easter told The [Columbia] State.
Reaction during Koger's sermon was mixed. Many cheered loudly, but others looked troubled. Polls have shown that blacks in South Carolina often have conservative positions on issues such as gay rights. In South Carolina there are more than 7,600 same-sex couples, according to the 2000 Census. The state repealed a ban against interracial marriages several years ago and still has a sodomy law on the books. NAACP leader the Reverend Joe Darby said the civil rights group doesn't regulate what speakers say. "We usually invite people and give them license to go in any direction they want to go," Darby said. "She was simply expressing her opinion."