The only billboard in the Central Texas town of Gatesville (pop. approx. 15,000) has become a lightning rod of controversy. A retired black minister rented the sign on Main Street that reads, "Gay Rights are Not Civil Rights". The sign owner, Virginia Miller, tells the Dallas Voice the pastor "wanted to get the message out to black people .. everything they fought for is being hijacked."
The message was paid for by Oen Dollins of Gatesville, a former minister. Miller said Dollins didn’t mean to offend anyone. "He wanted to get the message to black people that it’s not fair that they’re the ones who suffered, they’re the ones who paid the price, and now everything they fought for is being hijacked." Miller said.
Miller also claimed she’s received death threats since reports about the sign appeared on Instant Tea and on KCEN Channel 9 in Waco. She said Dollins paid $300 for the message to appear on the sign for three days, from Sunday through Tuesday, and it was taken down last night. Miller said her husband, Bo, carefully screens advertisements for “the Sign” and typically doesn’t allow anything negative. But Bo Miller told Channel 9 that he approved the message because he felt Dollins was making a valid argument.
The billboard, known in Gatesville as "The Sign", first made news earlier this week when a reader emailed photos to the Voice and added: "Hate is alive and well deep in the heart of Texas." KCEN-TV interviewed some residents and one black woman said she had no problem with the sign because "as a Black woman, because I have been through ...I know what it feels like and it’s totally different."
Dollins repeats this popular talking point by anti-gay black Christians: "No gays are having to ride on the back of the bus. No gays are being enslaved. No gays are being prosecuted [sic] in any way."
The Rev. Kevin E. Taylor, New Jersey-based pastor, black gay activist and author, scoffs at the "foolishness of trying to destroy the history and might of the movement." Rev. Kev adds: "Civil rights are about freedom for all. Dr. King said so masterfully: 'Until all of us are free, then none of us are free and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!' "
The problem is two-fold. "Gays" and "blacks" are stereotyped as mutually exclusive because black LGBTs are often reluctant to come out—read hundreds of comments here, here or here—and continue to embrace the closets of the anti-gay black churches
So saying "no gays never had to sit on the back of the bus" would be true .. only if you believe all gays are white. Just ask Bayard Rustin or any black gay or lesbian who grew up or were openly gay during Jim Crow. Better yet, if you really believe that no gays, lesbians or trans are being prosecuted (or persecuted) "in any way"' ... ask Tony Randolph Hunter, Lawrence King, Sakia Gunn, LaTeisha Green, or Michael Sandy. Or the black gay college students killed in Newark. Take a trip to Nigeria. Or Jamaica. Or Russia ...