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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
Rev. slams civil rights, Gay rights link
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Rev. slams civil rights, Gay rights link

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The struggle for LGBT equality is often linked to the historic 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

However, there are some, like Reverend Keith Ratliff, Sr., who disagree completely with that comparison and have begun to publicly disavow the link between the two movements.

Rev. Ratliff was speaking at a rally last week in Iowa for allowing a referendum vote on marriage equality - which has been legal in Iowa for nearly two years - when he broke away from several state and national-level leaders of the NAACP by saying that he was sick of Gays and Lesbians 'hijacking the Civil Rights Movement.'

The NAACP Iowa-Nebraska chapter, which Rev. Ratliff is president of, is one of the country's oldest chapters.

Rev. Ratliff's comments come at a time when the NAACPs Gay leadership is growing, putting him in direct contrast with the organization he serves.

According to the Associated Press, more Gay leaders and people of diverse racial backgrounds are being selected to lead the NAACP as the venerable civil rights organization seeks to increase its membership and broaden its anti-discrimination agenda.

The AP says the new faces are the result of 'an aggressive effort over the past four or five years' started under former chairman Julian Bond and accelerated under president Benjamin Todd Jealous, who has pushed for the organization to support Gay rights. Paid membership has increased to 525,000 from a low of just below 300,000 within the past decade, and people under 25 are now the fastest-growing membership group.

'NAACP branches have been recruiting Gays, immigrants, and young people who grew up in a world far removed from the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that outlawed school segregation,' reports the AP. 'Now, leadership positions that were once held only by blacks are being filled by members of other racial or ethnic groups.'

Still, Rev. Ratliff is joined by others who worry that the push for inclusion could distract from the NAACP's focus on African-American issues.

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