Mrs. King Commends Lambda for Leadership at 25th Anniversary Celebration

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Calls for All Civil Rights Supporters to Join Struggle against Anti-Gay Bias
March 31, 1998

(CHICAGO, March 31, 1998) -- Coretta Scott King, addressing a Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund gathering in Chicago on Tuesday, called for all supporters of civil rights in America to join the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias.

"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence, that spreads all too easily to victimize the next minority group," Mrs. King said at Lambda's Bon Foster Memorial Civil Rights Lecture.

Speaking to an audience of about 600 at the Palmer House Hilton, where Lambda celebrated its 25th anniversary as the leading national lesbian and gay legal organization, Mrs. King compared Lambda to groundbreaking legal groups that have come before it.

"Every human rights movement needs an organization dedicated to pursuing justice in the courts. The civil rights movement was blessed with outstanding attorneys who fought tirelessly in the courtrooms of the nation to end segregation and secure the constitutional rights of African Americans and other minorities," she said, adding, "I therefore commend Lambda for providing outstanding leadership in protecting and expanding the legal rights of lesbian and gay Americans."

Mrs. King noted Lambda's work, such as its battle to secure fair access to health care for people with AIDS, its efforts to assist lesbian and gay youth and end anti-gay violence, and its challenge to the military's anti-gay "don't ask, don't tell."

In her copyrighted speech, Mrs. King several times quoted her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., just days before the 30th anniversary of his assassination.

"As Martin once said, 'We are all tied together in a single garment of destinyan inescapable network of mutualityI can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be,'" Mrs. King said, continuing, "Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people. Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida, and many other campaigns of the civil rights movement."

"We are proud to have such firm support from Mrs. King, whose civil rights work has continually inspired us throughout these past 25 years as we have fought to make this country a safe place for lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS and their families," said Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart.

Maggie C. Daley and the Reverend Dr. Kenneth B. Smith, president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, are honorary co-chairs of the event. Lisa Freeman, an attorney for Amoco Corp., and Steve Wakefield, associate director of the Night Ministry, are the event co-chairs. The host committee also includes more than 50 prominent Chicago politicians, business people, and community organizers.

The annual Bon Foster Memorial Civil Rights Lecture serves as an educational forum at which Lambda considers its work in the broader spectrum of civil rights struggles taking place across the nation. Bon Foster was a Chicago attorney who died of AIDS in 1991, and his generosity supported the creation of Lambda's Midwest Regional Office in 1993.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. Headquartered in New York, and with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, Lambda has regional and national expertise in all aspects of sexual orientation and HIV-related law and policy.

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Contact: Peg Byron, 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager); Marty Grochala, 312-663-4413


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