Rev. Eric Lee Faces Pressure for Standing Up for Equality

Rev. Eric Lee, the outstanding leader of the LA Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council is getting heat from the national leadership for his support of marriage equality. The New York Times has a story of the split over LGBT rights within the fabled civil rights organization. (h/t Pam Spaulding)

Mr. Lee said that his opposition to Proposition 8 had “created tension in my life I had never experienced with black clergy.”

“But it was clear to me,” he added, “that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have, that is a clear violation of civil rights and I have to speak up on that.”

In April, Mr. Lee attended a board meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo., and found himself once again in the minority position among his colleagues on the issue of same-sex marriage, but he was told, he said, by the group’s interim president, Byron Clay, that the organization publicly had a neutral position on the issue.

So a month later, Mr. Lee said, he was surprised to receive a call from the National Board of Directors summoning him immediately to Atlanta to explain why he had taken a position on same-sex marriage without the authority of the national board. (NYT 7/10/09)

As Pam points out, the local groups operate independently. So, it’s not particularly clear what authority the national organization has over the LA Chapter. Further, the LA Chapter’s Board, led by current CDP Secretary Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, is in support of Rev. Lee and his position on marriage equality. While it looks like Rev. Lee was and is on solid footing, the incident reminds us of how much work there is to be done.

Rev. Lee was a leader in the effort to defeat Prop 8. However, as he pointed out, there was a failure of the campaign to reach out to communities of color. However, there has been a distinct effort to learn from these failures in order to not only win marriage equality at the ballot box but to also help create a more stable progressive coalition in the state.

It is important that marriage equality advocates see this struggle in the greater context of civil rights. That means not only LGBT rights, but also the rights of immigrants and those born into poverty. It means building a coalition that stands up and fights when the powerful try to trample the powerless.  And Eric Lee has been a leader, and no matter what capacity, he will continue to be a powerful voice for those who most need it.

2 thoughts on “Rev. Eric Lee Faces Pressure for Standing Up for Equality”

  1. …’You sir are a true American. Such are few on the ground today. Few understand the essential fact that if some are not free or less free so are we all. I commend you for this stand and frankly hearing of it gives me the energy to continue the fight of equality for everyone. No matter who they are.’

    Thanks to this site for bringing this man’s ethical stand to wider attention.

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