Watch: Hearse Carrying Rep. John Lewis Pauses at LGBTQ Rainbow Crosswalk in Atlanta

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday July 31, 2020

The hearse carrying the body of Georgia Congressman John Lewis came to a stop, lingering for long minutes at a rainbow-themed crosswalk in Atlantic, GA, in acknowledgement of the lawmaker's longstanding commitment to LGBTQ equality, reports NBC News.

Lewis was known as a fighter who refused to back down, peacefully protesting injustice throughout his life, from the occasion on March 7, 1965, when he suffered a nearly lethal fractured skull — the work of policemen who assaulted pacifistic civil rights marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge Bridge in Selma, Alabama — to the time in 2016 when he led a group of Democratic lawmakers in a sit-in to protest GOP inaction on reigning in gun violence, refusing to leave the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives even when then-Speaker Paul Ryan turned off C-SPAN Such episodes from Lewis' life were recounted in the recent documentary "Good Trouble."

Long before it was politically fashionable — or even safe — to do so, Lewis advocated for equality for his LGBTQ fellow Americans, recalled Buzzfeed News.

Buzzfeed recalled how Lewis cut to the heart of the matter when denouncing anti-LGBTQ prejudice and legal discrimination, quoting from Lewis' writings on the subject:

"I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"I've heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry."

That sometimes meant holding his ground even as other progressives were in retreat. In 1996 — the year Bill Clinton signed the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," a proactive measure that helped keep marriage equality out of reach of same-sex couples for decades — Lewis blasted the legislation from the floor of the House, calling it "a slap in the face of the Declaration of Independence."

Lewis was not swayed by arguments that same-sex couples might be allowed "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships."

Said Lewis:

"We have been down that road before in this country. Separate is not equal."

Lewis was just as committed to his faith as to ideals of equality, but unlike many others he did not use his religion as a cudgel against sexual minorities.

NBC News quoted the National LGBTQ Task Force's Victoria Kirby York as saying, "...for someone who is a man of deep faith to say that LGBTQ people matter, are equal and deserve protection and dignity, that gave other people the language to be able to say the same thing in their families, in their churches, in their homes.

"I believe that probably saved countless lives."

The hearse carrying Lewis paused at the rainbow-themed crosswalk — a symbol of diversity — as a "very appropriate" gesture at the inclusiveness of "John Lewis' legacy," York said.

Added York: "He was about civil rights, equality and liberation for everybody. Period. Full stop."

Watch the moment from Atlanta below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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