Julian Bond, a longtime advocate for the civil rights of all, including LGBT people, has died at age 75.
Bond died Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after a brief illness, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced. Bond was the organization’s founding president. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all,” the SPLC noted on its website.
Bond’s activism began with his work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s, notes a New York Times obituary. The SNCC fought segregation and opposed the Vietnam War. He later led the NAACP and served 20 years in the Georgia state legislature, where white members initially refused to seat him, citing SNCC’s antiwar activity. A 1966 Supreme Court decision forced the legislature to allow Bond to take his seat.
He came out in support of marriage equality in 2004, when he was chairman of the NAACP’s board of directors. “I see this as a civil rights issue,” he said at the time. “That means I support gay civil marriage.”
He made a video for the Human Rights Campaign’s Americans for Marriage Equality series in 2011, and he joined other African-American leaders in praising President Obama's endorsement of marriage equality in 2012. He campaigned for a marriage equality measure put to a public vote in Maryland that year; voters ended up approving it.
Bond also supported comprehensive LGBT civil rights legislation at the federal level and opposed legislation that would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. He wrote numerous opinion pieces on these topics, including some for The Advocate.
“Every American has the right to build their lives on the bedrock principles of hard work and determination, with the full knowledge that if they can get a fair chance, they can earn a living, provide for their families, and protect the ones they love,” he wrote in an Advocate op-ed in July of this year, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision. “But for LGBT people living in 31 states, those rights could be denied because of who they are or whom they love. They are judged, not on their performance, but on their personhood. … It’s time to take action to end this discrimination.”
In March, he wrote of religious refusal bills, “We have no crisis of religious discrimination; we have a crisis of fear. I stand against these bills and with those who are fighting to stop them. I refuse to allow discrimination to cloak itself in a shroud of faith. I refuse to give into fear.”
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin was among the many civil rights leaders mourning Bond’s passing. “Very few throughout human history have embodied the ideals of honor, dignity, courage, and friendship like Julian Bond,” he said in a blog post today. “Quite simply, this nation and this world are far better because of his life and commitment to equality for all people. Future generations will look back on his life and legacy and see a warrior for good who helped conquer hate in the name of love. I will greatly miss my friend and my hero, Julian Bond.”