President Obama has once again made history. He is the first sitting U.S. President to be featured on the cover of an LGBT publication: OUT Magazine. The special OUT 100 issue has the President on the cover with the words: "Our President: Ally. Hero. Icon." And it's a title well deserved. Adding to his list of proactive measures to push for greater equality, the President and the White House recently announced their support for legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Immediately, National Action Network (NAN) and I, along with the National Urban League, commended the President, despite the fact that some in the civil rights community are skeptical about such actions. This skepticism doesn't stem from homophobia or lack of embracing the LGBT community (though I cannot deny that some of that exists); most of the skeptics are fearful that Republicans would manipulate the bill to weaken it as it relates to protecting the Black community and others already covered by the Civil Rights Act. But I'm sure the President would not sign such legislation if that were the case, given his track record in standing up to embolden civil rights for everyone.
It's important to underscore what I have stated for years: The fight for justice must be a fight for everyone, or it's not a fight for anyone. One of the important things about student movements at the University of Missouri, Yale and other younger movements that I've observed, including the large youth department at NAN, led by Mary-Pat Hector, is how they emphasize the integration of the LGBT community in their themes, leadership, slogans, etc. It's time the adults in the room do the same so that those that benefit from our bickering and disunity can no longer win. The issue of transgender rights and the rights of all LGBT individuals should not even be controversial. But if we still face racism on elite college campuses, then I suppose I should not be surprised that we are facing homophobia in many aspects of society -- including among some in Congress.
The students at the University of Missouri should be commended and praised by everyone that believes in the notion of progress. They showed the nation and the world that they have the right method -- a method that civil rights groups used for years -- a collective strategy of all, utilizing economic leverage along with a disciplined, focused and determined non-violent movement. They resisted the temptation of bombast and entertainment, and instead kept their eyes on the prize -- and won. We must do the same for broader civil rights legislation that is before us in pursuit of fairness for all. We must include everyone to stand up for everyone's rights, and have a focused and disciplined movement. That will be the only way to defeat determined and powerful adversaries.
During the great civil rights struggle of the past that led to the historic Civil Rights Act itself, Black, White and all came together in the push for justice and equality. It was through this unity that the nation progressed forward and began a long process of healing that is still continuing today. The struggles today may be somewhat different, but the challenges are very real and require just as much courage and devotion as the battles of the past. It is encouraging to see young people at the University of Missouri and elsewhere creating real substantive change and holding accountable those that would simply like to dismiss our concerns. We need the same level of unity for all of our civil rights struggles in order to continue winning.
I salute President Obama's support of expansion of the Civil Rights Act to include the LGBT community, just as I salute the students at the University of Missouri and Yale who are also dealing with racial issues on campus. We must organize and win as one, or else it all becomes footnotes of rhetoric in the American historic record of these times.
Justice for all, or there simply is no justice.