Press

Task Force mourns death of Coretta Scott King

Date: 
January 31, 2006

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

'[My husband] believed that none of us could be free until all of us were free, that a person of conscience had no alternative but to defend the human rights of all people. I want to reaffirm my determination to secure the fullest protection of the law for all working people, regardless of their sexual orientation ... it is right, just and good for America.'
— Coretta Scott King at the Task Force's Honoring Our Allies award ceremony

'From the beginning, Mrs. King understood that homophobia is hate, and hate has no place in the Beloved Community that she and Dr. King envisioned for our nation and our world.'
— Matt Foreman, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the death of Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who died in her sleep overnight at the age of 78. Mrs. King worked tirelessly after her husband's death in 1968 to carry on his legacy of social justice activism. She was a steadfast ally in the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, and was honored by the Task Force in 1997 for her support of the cause. In addition, Mrs. King was a featured speaker at the Task Force's Creating Change 2000, where she rallied hundreds of activists gathered for the country's largest LGBT rights organizing conference. In 2003, her son, Martin Luther King Jr. III, was personally responsible for inviting Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman to join Mrs. King to speak from the podium at the 40th anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.


Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman, Mandy Carter of Southerners on New Ground, and Coretta Scott King at the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

[Download a hi-res version of the above photo.]

"Our community has lost a dear and courageous friend, someone who was there for us when virtually no one else was," Foreman said today. "From the beginning, Mrs. King understood that homophobia is hate, and hate has no place in the Beloved Community that she and Dr. King envisioned for our nation and our world. Our hearts go out to her family and to Lynn Cothren, her 23-year assistant and a former Task Force board member."

In 1997, upon receiving the Task Force's Honoring Our Allies award, Mrs. King told the crowd, "I accept this award as a reaffirmation of my commitment to carry forward the unfinished work of my husband, Martin Luther King Jr. My husband understood that all forms of discrimination and persecution were unjust and unacceptable for a great democracy. He believed that none of us could be free until all of us were free, that a person of conscience had no alternative but to defend the human rights of all people. I want to reaffirm my determination to secure the fullest protection of the law for all working people, regardless of their sexual orientation ... it is right, just and good for America."

At the awards ceremony, Kerry Lobel, then-Task Force executive director, said, "Mrs. King has stood shoulder to shoulder with us as we work to envision and create a world based on social justice. She embraces the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as part of the continued legacy of Dr. King's brave work. Her progressive vision of peace and justice echoes around the world."

"Today we deeply mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King, who staunchly stood for the civil rights of all people, including the civil rights of our lesbigaytrans community of all colors, and who consistently challenged our own black community to understand that discrimination is wrong whether based on color or sexual identity. Civil rights is civil rights," said longtime activist Mandy Carter, executive director and a co-founder of the North Carolina-based group Southerners on New Ground.

"I'll forever cherish the day that I and Matt Foreman, representing our lesbigaytrans community, got to stand shoulder to shoulder with her on August 23, 2003, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington," Carter continued. "The 1963 march was organized by Bayard Rustin, a black gay pacifist who was instrumental in introducing Dr. King to concepts of Ghandian nonviolence, the hallmark of the civil rights movement. Thank you so much Mrs. Coretta Scott King. You've left an amazing legacy."

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.