Black & LGBTQI Timeline

Our executive director, Rev. Dr. Cindi Love developed Black & LGBTQI Timeline for Metropolitan Community Churches.

This project honors the lives and contributions of Black & LGBTQI people who have served as lay and clergy leaders for the movement and ministry of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide.  The project has two aspects: Creation of a timeline of contributions of Black & LGBTQI people adapted from the Black History Project and MCC’s own Oral History and Archives Project titled "In Our Own Words – MCC".

A brief narrative drawn from the vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. of a "world house" and the story of one of our clergy leaders, Rev. Carolyn Mobley.
We hope that the time line and the narrative will encourage you to visit "In Our Own Words – MCC" and add your own story and that of people you know who have contributed so much to our work worldwide.

View the timeline on MCC’s "In Our Own Words" site

Two Spirit Society of Denver

The Two Spirit Society of Denver is a dedicated group of GBLT Native Americans in the Denver area who are united by their struggle to restore Two Spirited people to their rightful place in the sacred circle. The Two Spirit Society of Denver seeks to achieve this goal using the following methods:

  • Provide support for GBLT Native Americans
  • Provide community outreach to GBLT Natives, elders, and the non-native community
  • Provide cultural education regarding traditional Two Spirit functions in Native American Society and guidance in reclaiming that role in contemporary times
  • Provide a forum and plan of action for social change in Native American communities

The term Two Spirit refers to another gender role believed to be common among most, if not all, first peoples of Turtle Island (North America), one that had a proper and accepted place within indigenous societies. This acceptance was rooted in the spiritual teachings that say all life is sacred and that the Creator must have a reason for making someone different. This gender role was not based in sexual activities or practices, but rather the sacredness that comes from being different. This definition is not meant to replace cultural and traditional teachings, which speak to this role. It is intended to find common ground and to help educate in a contemporary context.

In 1999, the Two Spirit Society of Denver formed to confront and combat issues of homophobia, racism, and oppression from the Native American community, the non-Native communities, and the GLBT community at large. Two Sprit people have a strong history, with many traditions and beliefs that focus on the freedom of religion, the right to practice traditional ceremonies, and the strength to overcome stereotypes and myths that are restraining our place within the sacred circle.

For more information, please visit

Those Who Lived the Struggle to End Segregation Now Speak Out for Same-Gender Marriage Equality

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice… But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ … 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.”1

“Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”2

“We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be,” she said, quoting from her husband. “I’ve always felt that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a free society and must be opposed by all Americans who believe in democracy.”3

“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. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions.”4

“We have a lot of work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say ‘common struggle,’ because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry & discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.”5

“We have to launch a campaign against homophobia in the black community.”6

“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 spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.”7

Coretta Scott King was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a leader in the civil rights movement.


1 Coretta Scott King, 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Defense and Education Fund, March 31, 1998

2 Coretta Scott King, speech at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, USA Today, March 24, 2004

3 Coretta Scott King, 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Defense and Education Fund, quoted in the Chicago Sun Times, April 1, 1998

4 Coretta Scott King, 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Defense and Education Fund, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1998

5 Coretta Scott King, Opening Plenary Session, 13th annual Creating Change conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Atlanta, Georgia, November 9, 2000

6 Coretta Scott King, Reuters, June 8, 2001

7 Coretta Scott King, a speech at the Palmer Hilton Hotel, quoted in the Chicago Defender, April 1, 1998



John Lewis

John Lewis

From time to time, America comes to a crossroads. With confusion and controversy, it’s hard to spot that moment. We need cool heads, warm hearts, and America’s core principles to cleanse away the distractions.

We are now at such a crossroads over same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. It is time to say forthrightly that the government’s exclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from civil marriage officially degrades them and their families. It denies them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It denies them numerous legal protections for their families.

This discrimination is wrong. We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.

Some say let’s choose another route and give gay folks some legal rights but call it something other than marriage. We have been down that road before in this country. Separate is not equal. The rights to liberty and happiness belong to each of us and on the same terms, without regard to either skin color or sexual orientation.

Some say they are uncomfortable with the thought of gays and lesbians marrying. But our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans.

Sometimes it takes courts to remind us of these basic principles. In 1948, when I was 8 years old, 30 states had bans on interracial marriage, courts had upheld the bans many times, and 90 percent of the public disapproved of those marriages, saying they were against the definition of marriage, against God’s law. But that year, the California Supreme Court became the first court in America to strike down such a ban. Thank goodness some court finally had the courage to say that equal means equal, and others rightly followed, including the US Supreme Court 19 years later.

Some stand on the ground of religion, either demonizing gay people or suggesting that civil marriage is beyond the Constitution. But religious rites and civil rights are two separate entities. What’s at stake here is legal marriage, not the freedom of every religion to decide on its own religious views and ceremonies.

I remember the words of John Kennedy when his presidential candidacy was challenged because of his faith: “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source — where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

Those words ring particularly true today. We hurt our fellow citizens and our community when we deny gay people civil marriage and its protections and responsibilities. Rather than divide and discriminate, let us come together and create one nation. We are all one people. We all live in the American house. We are all the American family. Let us recognize that the gay people living in our house share the same hopes, troubles, and dreams. It’s time we treated them as equals, as family.

John Lewis was a young leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He was 23 years old when he spoke at the 1963 March on Washington.

Source: Boston Globe, October 25, 2003



Bob and Jeannie Graetz

Bob and Jeannie Graetz

“We are a retired Lutheran pastor and spouse, whose oldest son was born gay, and who at the age of 37 died with AIDS. Having spent years coming to grips with and trying to understand the concept of homosexuality, we have ultimately come to recognize this condition as a special gift of God conveyed to some of his carefully selected daughters and sons. We have come to know personally thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons. And we have also become convinced that this condition is part of the ‘creative given’ rather than a personal choice by those individuals.”

“We have spent most of our lives struggling against the oppression of African-Americans and other groups within our society who are the objects of discrimination and prejudice. And we consider our ministry with and for the GLBT community to be an extension of that life-long commitment.”

Rev. Bob Graetz and his wife Jeannie in a letter to Catholic Bishop Daniel Pilarczyk. Bob Graetz was the only white minister to march with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He and his wife Jeannie served an all-black Lutheran congregation in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Because of their participation in the boycott, their home was bombed twice.




Dr. James Lawson

Dr. James Lawson

“Gays and lesbians have a more difficult time than we did. We had our families and our churches on our side. All too often, they have neither.”

Rev. Dr. James Lawson is a distinguished United Methodist pastor who worked side-by-side with Dr. King training the young people who staged the lunch counter sit-ins and the Freedom Rides.




Andrew Young

Andrew Young

“I’d be disappointed if we did not approve this resolution. I think it would be consistent with our historic spirit of fairness and justice. But it also would be consistent with the spirit of grace and mercy as the path to peace and that you judge not that you not be judged.”

Andrew Young speaking about a United Church of Christ resolution affirming same-gender marriage equality. Young, a close friend of Dr. King during the civil rights movement, is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta.

Source: Andrew Young says Synod’s affirmation of marriage equality would be prophetic. UCC Article, July 1, 2005.


Julian Bond

Julian Bond

“That’s why when I am asked, ‘Are gay rights civil rights?’ my answer is always, ‘Of course they are.'”

“Rights for gays and lesbians are not ‘special rights’ in any way. It isn’t “special” to be free from discrimination — that’s an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship.”

“No parallels between movements for rights is exact. African-Americans are the only Americans who were enslaved for more than two centuries, and people of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination — sadly, so do many others. They deserve the law’s protection and they deserve civil rights too. Sexual disposition parallels race — I was born black and I had no choice. I couldn’t and wouldn’t change if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn’t a preference — it is immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us against prejudices based on immutable differences.”

Julian Bond speaking at the 2008 Creating Change Conference. Bond was a founding member of SNCC in 1960. While a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he helped organize a sit-in movement at Atlanta University. Since 1998, Julian Bond has served as Chairman of the Board of the NAACP.

Source: Julian Bond’s Creating Change 2008 Plenary Speech YouTube video, February 7, 2008. Also available from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as a pdf.


Mildred Loving

Mildred Loving

“Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

Mildred Loving, along with her husband, Richard, were plantiffs in the historic Supreme Court decision “Loving v. Virginia” which overturned state laws preventing two persons of different races from getting married.

Source: Loving for All by Mildred Loving, June 12, 2007 (the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia). Available from Freedom to Marry as a pdf.

The Freedom Ride Tradition

Click here to read a letter from Rodney Powell, a gay man who helped lead the Freedom Rides.

On Monday, May 4, 1961 brave young men and women boarded a Greyhound bus with a ticket south. The ride was designed to test the Supreme Court’s 1946 decision in the Irene Morgan case, which declared segregated seating of interstate passengers unconstitutional. From beginning to end the young adults who were made up of both white and black individuals planned on breaking whatever unconstitutional rules of segregation were still being enforced at interstate bus stations. White youth would sit in the back of the bus and use black waiting areas and black youth would sit in front of the bus and use white waiting areas. It was an experiment in courage. Their goals were freedom and reconciliation and their weapons were truth and love.

On their journey to justice, these Freedom Riders met horrible violence. In Alabama the groups went in two directions and both groups faced hostile situations. The first group met an angry mob in Anniston, Alabama, and their bus was fire bombed. The second group met a similarly angry mob in Birmingham, Alabama. For a moment it seemed as though the Freedom Rides had come to an end because the bus company did not want to continue for fear of their drivers safety and the safety of their buses. But the Freedom Riders wanted to push ahead. As Jim Peck, a white young man who had fifty stitches from the beatings he received, insisted, "I think it is particularly important at this time when it has become national news that we continue and show that nonviolence can prevail over violence."

With the help of students from Nashville, famous for their Nashville sit-ins, and pressure from Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the Freedom Ride continued. The next stop was Montgomery where they were met with violence for a third time. After this occurrence Robert Kennedy called in Federal Marshals to ensure their protection. Kennedy had hoped for a cooling off period but the Freedom Riders wanted no such thing. With the protection of the Federal Government they continued onto Jackson, Mississippi. They were given good protection as they entered the Jackson bus terminal and there was no angry mob waiting for them there. However, local police were waiting and the students who broke the local laws mandating segregation were hauled off to jail where they were at the mercy of the local courts, which sentence the riders to 60 days in jail.

But the Freedom Ride did not end there. Hearing of their incarceration, more Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson to continue the Freedom Ride, and they too were arrested. Throughout the summer Freedom Riders continued to arrive in the South by busloads and by summers end more than 300 riders had been arrested. The Freedom Ride, which was originally suppose to be a two-week journey had turned into national news stories with global implications. The Freedom Riders had taken their stand. In the face of violence they pushed ahead, nonviolently. Today, we remember this summer long display of courage as, Freedom Summer.

As the members of the Equality Ride embark on their journey next March, they draw inspiration from these youth who fought for their freedom over forty years ago. Certainly, the two journeys are different in many ways. They have different purposes and goals. They are fighting different forms of oppression and each present their own unique challenges to overcome.

However, they also have a great deal in common. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is lead by young adults seeking a better tomorrow. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is entering into the epicenters of the oppression they seek to end. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is going into segregated environments, public and private. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride will face the chief criticism that the riders are "outside agitators." Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride will also be criticized for infringing on "privately held beliefs" that should be the right of the conservative Christian colleges to set and enforce on their members. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is fighting for the underlying cause of justice, freedom and equality. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride comes with risks unknown. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride will use the power of love, truth and nonviolence to overcome oppression and injustice. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride seeks to win reconciliation, making society better for all.

If you are considering applying to be an Equality Rider, please take some time to read about these brave young adults. Also, read the letter from Dr. Rodney N. Powell, who was a black (and closeted gay) student activist in the African American civil rights movement while in medical school in Nashville, Tennessee 1957-1961. Draw inspiration from his words and the history the Freedom Riders made working for equality and justice.

Rodney Powell: Thoughts on the Soulforce Equality Ride


Get Flash Player (required to play)

Rodney Powell is a gay, African American, who has lived in Hawaii since 1976 with his partner of 30 years. While a medical student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee during the years 1957-61, as a student protest leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement, Rodney had the privilege and honor to learn and apply the philosophy and strategies of love and nonviolence under the guidance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other dedicated ministers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In this interview, Rodney shares his thoughts on the Soulforce Equality Ride.

A Letter from Rodney Powell, Gay Man who Helped Lead the Freedom Rides

"History reveals to us that those who oppose the movement for freedom are those who are in privileged positions who very seldom give up their privileges without strong resistance. And they very seldom do it voluntarily."

Martin Luther King Jr.

I have long been an advocate for more meaningful involvement and leadership of youth, both straight and gay, in the struggle for GLBT equality and justice. It wasn’t until my student protest experiences in the Civil Rights Movement in the South under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his trusted advisors, during medical school in Nashville, 1957 – 1961, that I had new language and positive strategies to affirm my racial identity. The new language and positive strategies to affirm my sexual orientation were not part of that experience. In fact, the palpable homophobia of the black clergy in the black Christian churches where we trained in nonviolence and the homophobic attitudes of my fellow students necessitated that I keep my “secret” to myself, if I wanted to be an effective student leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired youth across America to fight racial oppression and seek justice. Many closeted GLBT persons, white and black, also risked their lives for racial justice during the African American civil rights movement, especially those who participated in the Freedom Rides. Their contribution and personal sacrifices have never been acknowledged. The Equality Rides are in keeping with the very best strategies and application of the power of love and nonviolence, as inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the African American civil rights movement, to overcome segregation and racism. The 1960 Nashville, Tennessee strategic nonviolent relentless student sit-ins, stand-ins, boycotts, and eventually their contributions to continuation of the Freedom Rides to desegregate the South provide valuable and inspiring lessons learned about the power of nonviolent direct action and harnessing the power of student activism.

The Equality Rides address the oppression and persecution of GLBT Americans ensuing from misguided Christian dogma. Conservative Christian dogma and its resultant bigotry have been encoded into social customs and codified into laws to deny justice and equality to black Americans and homosexual Americans for centuries.

Gay and straight youth alliances should give major emphasis to the lessons learned from the African American civil rights movement and the Legacy and Dream of the Beloved Community by Martin Luther King, Jr. The liberation of America’s GLBT community through the redemptive power of love and nonviolence will require relentless struggle, sustained nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience by gay and straight alliances throughout American society, in every rural and urban community and at all local, state and federal levels. To be effective, the character and intensity of our social protests and civil rights struggles must match the character and intensity of the sit-ins, freedom rides, voter registration drives and other acts of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience used by African Americans to overcome racism.

It will require radical action to change the way American society accommodates the vile and narrow interpretation of Scripture by conservative Christians. It will require sustained, massive protest and nonviolent resistance to change the way American society accommodates the sense of righteousness that allows “born again Christians” and other conservative Christians … Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. …to justify and politically pursue their persecution of homosexuals as a moral obligation. Under the constitution, Christian churches can impose their literal Biblical interpretations on themselves, but not upon their neighbors. It must be the dedicated purpose of the Equality Rides to make certain conservative Christian colleges do not teach homophobia and persecute enrolled GLBT and straight students who question homophobic policies. Conservative Christian colleges must be held accountable for freedom of inquiry and academic freedom, which must be the gold standard of institutions of higher learning, including conservative Christian colleges.

I immensely admire and respect the carefully structured strategic plan for the Equality Rides. The Equality Rides in this new millennium provide the language and positive strategies, based on the power of nonviolent resistance, to overcome conservative Christian bigotry towards our GLBT community and unconditionally confirm the immutability of sexual orientation.

Drawing from my 70 years as a gay, black American, I want to leave you with the clear message that homophobia is more hostile and deadly than any racism I experienced in the deep South. Why? … because of the mistaken belief that homosexuality is a choice. The immutability of race and the lack of choice regarding race meant there was no closet for black Americans to hide in or to be forced into. Homosexuality is also not a choice. We must not allow the belief that it is to be used to force us to retreat into and behind dehumanizing closet walls. Nor should we accept or be cowered by literal Biblical interpretations to condemn us and deny justice, equality and first class American citizenship.

I also want to leave you with these thoughts. We must be willing to go beyond whatever we have achieved today in the form of hate crime legislation and executive, judicial or legislative decisions prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and education. We must not be lulled into believing that domestic partnership/civil unions and marriage are equal civil rights. Separate has never been equal, not fifty years ago and not now. We must go beyond where we are today in tolerating homophobic oppression, persecution and denial of equality and first-class citizenship.

The Equality Rides offer the opportunity to stigmatize homophobia and American society’s acceptance of conservative Christian homophobia based on the Bible. We must vigorously embrace the redemptive power of love and nonviolence used by Gandhi and King. We must follow the guidelines and strategies used by the African American Civil Rights Movement to sustain massive nonviolent resistance and social protest throughout the nation until justice is achieved. We must inspire our fellow Americans who believe in equality and justice to join us and work together to expedite political and social change.

In the spirit of love and nonviolence,

Rodney N. Powell, M.D.

Online Video:

Rodney Powell: Thoughts on the Soulforce Equality Ride