- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2005

Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported same-sex “marriage,” a former aide to the slain civil rights leader said last night at an event sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum.

Speaking of King’s “Christian commitment to a socially conscious democracy,” former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activist Jack O’Dell asked, “Why would he exclude people because of their sexual preference?”

The homosexual rights movement is “another dimension of the struggle for human rights,” Mr. O’Dell said at an annual observance of King’s birth, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. He described as “unconscionable” the November passage of ballot initiatives against same-sex “marriage” in 11 states.

An October survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that blacks were more likely than whites to oppose recognition of same-sex “marriage”: 46 percent of blacks and 37 percent of whites said they opposed any recognition of homosexual unions; 29 percent of whites and 23 percent of blacks favored it.

Mr. O’Dell, 81, now an international affairs consultant to the National Rainbow Coalition, was dismissed from the staff of King’s SCLC after a June 1963 White House meeting during which President Kennedy urged the civil rights leader to purge communists from his organization.

According to King biographer Taylor Branch, President Kennedy put his hand on King’s shoulder and urged him to “get rid of” Mr. O’Dell and another SCLC aide, Stanley Levinson. Both men, the president said, had been identified as communist officials by the FBI, which named Mr. O’Dell as the fifth-ranking member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

“O’Dell has always been identified with the far pro-communist left of the ‘50s,” historian Ronald Radosh said yesterday. “It’s a poor choice for the Smithsonian to choose someone with those beliefs to represent a heroic movement to realize the American dream.”

Mr. O’Dell remained a staunch defender of communism for decades. At a 1985 event in Berkeley, Calif., on the 68th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Mr. O’Dell called U.S. opposition to the Soviet Union “an integral part of the belief system of racism and Western national chauvinism.”

Last night, Mr. O’Dell condemned the United States for its “aggressive militarism,” and called for a “new Reconstruction” to eliminate economic inequality.

A Detroit native who now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Mr. O’Dell said Canada is ahead of the United States in creating the kind of society King advocated.

“Canada has a socially conscious democracy — not as advanced as Europe, but way ahead of the United States,” he said.

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