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Award Inspired by Martin Luther King Goes to ... Antigay Justice Roy Moore

Award Inspired by Martin Luther King Goes to ... Antigay Justice Roy Moore


In a move that will strike some as curious, a pastors' group presents the Letter From Birmingham Jail Award to the jurist leading the charge against marriage equality in Alabama.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has led efforts to block marriage equality in his state, is receiving an award today that will undoubtedly strike some observers as odd -- the Letter From Birmingham Jail Courage Award, named for a famous document written by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Coalition of African-American Pastors, a conservative group that describes itself as "a new movement for faith, family, and justice," is presenting the award to Moore for his "principled and persuasive stand for marriage," the group's president, Rev. William Owens, said in a press release announcing the award. It is the first such award, and it's scheduled to be presented this morning on the steps of the Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery, just down the street from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King began his ministerial career.

Moore has said same-sex marriage threatens to destroy the nation and that Alabama officials are not constitutionally bound to follow a federal judge's rulings striking down the state's ban on such marriages. Marriage equality came to Alabama in February as a result of those rulings, but the state Supreme Court halted issuance of licenses to same-sex couples in March. LGBT legal groups are continuing to seek equal marriage rights statewide.

King wrote the "Letter From Birmingham Jail" while in the city jail in 1963, having been arrested in civil rights protests in Birmingham, Ala. It was his answer to fellow clergy members who called on King and his allies to renounce direct action as a means of fighting for these rights. "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issues," he wrote.

King never publicly addressed LGBT rights, but his widow, Coretta Scott King, was an outspoken LGBT ally and marriage equality supporter. "I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people," she said in 2000, six years before her death.

Also, Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was one of King's top aides, said in 1987, "It is difficult for me to know what Dr. King felt about gayness except to say that I'm sure he would have been sympathetic and would not have had the prejudicial view. Otherwise he would not have hired me."

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