by Megan Smith
Nearly two weeks after a jury deemed George Zimmerman “not guilty” of the second-degree murder of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, LGBT rights organizations continue to argue that justice for Martin is not just a race issue, but also a matter of equality for all.
On July 15, 35 LGBT organizations, including GLAAD, The Harvey Milk Foundation, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, BiNetUSA, and The Trans People of Color Coalition, issued an open letter on justice for Martin. “Every person, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, must be able to walk the streets without fear for their safety,” the letter read. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘a right delayed is a right denied.’ We honor Trayvon by seeking justice for all people.”
This same notion seems to echo from Martin supporters across the country. During a rally for justice in Washington DC, Dr. E. Faye Williams, national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, said, “I want to see my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community stand up for the memory of Trayvon Martin.”
“Trayvon could have been any gay or lesbian kid of color,” Rev. Meredith Moise of Baltimore added in a late July interview with the Washington Blade. “The LGBTQ community must show solidarity by raising voices against racial profiling and bias. It is also time that we look at racism within the LGBTQ community and make a commitment to end racism within our own ranks.”
Following the Zimmerman verdict, openly gay ESPN columnist and writer LZ Granderson described his reactions as the father of a young, African-American son in a CNN opinion piece. Granderson explains that just hours before the verdict, he and his partner were discussing how to prevent their son from being shot while jogging in their upper-middle class, predominantly white neighborhood. “I promise you, it was a very real conversation,” he said in his commentary. “After the verdict—it came as a punch to the stomach—we thought maybe it was best if he only ran inside the gym. Trayvon could have been my son—and that scares the hell out of me. If, during this sixteen-month ordeal, that thought never crossed your mind, then you have no idea what it is like to be the parent of a young black male in America.”
On July 19, President Obama mirrored Granderson’s sentiments in an impromptu speech addressing the Zimmerman decision. “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me thirty-five years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.”
As of July 23, federal officials were still deciding whether or not to pursue a civil rights case to determine if Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights when he shot the teenager.
Until then, LGBT rights organizations stand with Martin. “Our own community crosses every other line of diversity in this country,” Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, told the Washington Blade. “We are connected to one another inextricably, like it or not. And we damn well better stand together or we will have hell to pay.”