Chicago, IL —
A group of Chicago-area ministers and political leaders will hold a press conference on Monday -- the national Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday -- denouncing any connection between civil rights and gay rights.
"The recent passage of the 'civil unions' bill has been trumpeted by some lawmakers as an achievement to civil rights. It is not," the anti-gay Illinois Family Institute (IFI) said in a press release.
IFI and the Catholic Conference of Illinois lobbied hard to block the passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (SB 1716) in Illinois, which passed on Dec. 1, 2010.
The event organized by IFI is being held Monday, Jan. 17 at 10:30 a.m. at the Freedom Baptist Church in Hillside, a western suburb of Chicago.
"For years, homosexual activists have exploited an absurd and offensive analogy between homosexuality and race in order to advance their moral and political agenda," the group said in a press release. "Homosexualists use the heroic battle to end racial discrimination as a Trojan Horse to eradicate moral judgments about homosexual conduct. All civilized persons -- particularly African-Americans -- should be outraged."
The group said that religious leaders including Pastor Al Cleveland, Bishop Michael Love, Dr. Hiram Crawford, Dr. Eric Wallace, Pastor Larry Rogers and the Rev. Isaac C. Hayes, a member of the Illinois Coalition of Black Republicans, will speak at the event.
ChicagoPride.com has been unable to confirm whether State Sen. and Rev. James Meeks (D-Chicago) plans to attend Monday's event. Meeks, who has received support from IFI, was the lone African American and Democrat in the Illinois Senate and House to vote against the historic civil unions bill. Meeks dropped out of the race for Chicago mayor on Dec. 24.
"Skin color is not analogous to behavior. To equate homosexuality to race is offensive and perverts the noble cause of a great man and an important movement in our history," Illinois Family Institute executive director David Smith said in a press release.
Ironically, the Illinois Family Institute is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
"Civil Rights belong to every American," The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) president Jacob Meister told ChicagoPride.com Monday afternoon. "The suggestion that African American's have a monopoly on civil rights or that civil rights is purely a racial matter is absurd." (Read Jacob Meister's full statement
TCRA was instrumental in lobbying the Illinois General Assembly to pass the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.
Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Before her death, his widow, Coretta Scott King speculated that Dr. King would have supported gay rights, if he had lived.
"Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental civil right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination… 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," she said.