This year's events, held in Washington, D.C., where King delivered his famous speech in 1963, marked the first time in which the African American group sponsors invited homosexual organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) to participate.
However, conservatives charged that homosexual advocates were trying to hijack the civil rights movement led by King.
"It doesn't surprise me that they're trying to 'glom on' to Dr. King's civil rights movement," Council Nedd, advisory board member of Project 21 - an initiative of the National Center for Public Policy Research to promote the views of African Americans - told CNSNews.com. "They've been doing this progressively more and more for the last 30 years."
In King's speech, he referred to his dream of all people one day being "judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." However, according to Nedd, while a person cannot escape the color of their skin, a person can escape the nature of their sexuality.
"Say for instance if you're a white homosexual, if things get rough, you can always escape into the protective camouflage of your whiteness. I, as a black person, can't do that. I can't hide from my color. They can hide from their homosexuality easier. To equate the two, as an African American male, I have a problem with that."
While refusing to comment to CNSNews.com, a spokesman for the NGLTF stated his group's enthusiasm over being included in the ceremonies commemorating King's speech.
"We are extremely honored to have been invited to be a co-convener of this historic event where we will begin, in unity with the larger civil rights community, the long process of renewing, repairing and restoring the vision of full equality for all," Matt Foreman, NGLTF communications director, stated in the release.
"The hard-won progress the nation has achieved in the 40 years since Dr. King's historic speech is in mortal danger. That progress is being undermined every day as our civil rights are being eroded and our gains in racial, social and economic justice are being dismantled," said
Mandy Carter, executive director of Southerners on New Ground, added her own perspective in the same statement.
"As a black woman and a lesbian, I think it's important to not only emphasize equal civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a whole, but specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of color as well,"
Speaking at an NGLTF conference in November 2000, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s widow, Coretta Scott King, said she was sure her late husband would have welcomed homosexuals into the civil rights movement.
"We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny...an inescapable network of mutuality... I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be," Mrs. King said. "Therefore, 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."
Yet some questioned Mrs. King's motives and sincerity.
"The only blacks who are big gay activists are the elites, and they are way out of touch with the rank and file African American. You don't see the average black person relishing the idea of their comparison with homosexuals as a racial minority," Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst with Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, told CNSNews.com. "Shame on Coretta Scott King and the liberal black leadership for helping the gay lobby make these ridiculous comparisons."
In 1997, Alveda Celeste King, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s niece, was quoted by the Associated Press from a speech she had given at a rally on the U.S. Capitol steps - warning that the equation of homosexuality to race was a "death sentence" for the civil rights movement.
"No one is enslaving homosexuals... or making them sit in the back of the bus," Alveda King reportedly said. "Don't expect us or our children to approve of, promote or elevate sexual preference to civil rights status...What's next, civil rights on the basis of prostitution and pedophilia?"
Peter Sprigg, director of marriage and family studies for the Family Research Council, cited a July 28 USA Today/Gallup poll he said reveals "the African American community does not support the homosexual agenda." Their support fell from 58 percent in May to 36 percent in July, according to the poll.
"We think it's outrageous the way that pro-homosexual groups have tried to hijack the civil rights movement for their own purposes," Sprigg told CNSNews.com.
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