Gay plight is ‘civil rights struggle’

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The fight for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality is a crucial civil rights struggle that all Americans should support, two legendary civil rights heroes have announced.

Dolores Huerta and Julian Bond made the statement in interviews in the latest issue of the Human Rights Campaign magazine, Equality.

When every American is able to live and work free from discrimination, the country as a whole becomes stronger, said Bond, chairman of the NAACP board of directors, and Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, in separate, in-depth interviews.

And achieving LGBT equality is just as important a civil rights struggle as the historic battles to secure equal protections for African-American and Latino/a people, they said.

It’s an “exact parallel,” said Bond. “When the black civil rights movement wins an advance, it isn’t a black advance. It is an advance for all people. Everyone moves forward. … That’s true with gays and lesbians; it’s true with Hispanics; it’s true with women. It’s true with all of us.”

In their sit-down interviews on the subject, both Bond and Huerta talk about how, early in their lives, they first came to understand the importance of LGBT equality. For Huerta, it came when she worked alongside gay and lesbian farm workers in California. Bond talks about working with gay colleagues in Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s.

Marriage equality for LGBT Americans, too, is critical, the two said.

Huerta also urged leaders across the Latino community to speak out. “It’s time for leaders of the entire community to take a stand,” she said. “Leaders cannot represent their constituents if they do not represent and educate all of their community on LGBT equality.”

“We stand on the shoulders of these legendary American civil rights leaders. They believe, as we believe, that individual freedom and equality is every American’s right,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.

Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with César Chávez and heads her own foundation for community organizing. Bond, chairman of the NAACP board, the largest and oldest civil rights group in the US, co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served for 20 years in the Georgia Legislature.