The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will join a prominent Atlanta pastor today in a march that opposes same-sex marriage as part of a larger, church-centered...

Share story

ATLANTA — The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will join a prominent Atlanta pastor today in a march that opposes same-sex marriage as part of a larger, church-centered empowerment movement. The event has been criticized by gay-rights organizations, which say it betrays the legacy of the slain civil-rights leader.

King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, has supported marriage rights for gays and lesbians, as have civil-rights figures Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The “Reigniting the Legacy” march, to be led by King and Bishop Eddie Long, will begin at the Martin Luther King Center for NonViolent Social Change. Organizers said they expect 100 pastors and 10,000 marchers to participate.

Long, whose New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has 25,000 members, said his goal was an authoritative voice for the black church on issues such as protection of marriage, school choice, affordable health care and “wealth creation” for minorities.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“There has not been a unified voice out of our community since the assassination of Dr. King,” Long said. A strong segment of society, he said, “want to go back to basic, fundamental moral beliefs.”

Gay-rights advocates are well aware of Long’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Still, Chuck Bowen, a spokesman for Georgia Equality, said he was surprised to learn about the march.

“I think he’s abusing the good name of Dr. King and the work he did creating equality for all Americans,” Bowen said.

Long said in a statement that the march aimed not “to protest same-sex marriage, but to present a unified version of righteousness and justice.”

In an interview this week, Bernice King, 41, acknowledged that the issue has left painful rifts.

“The question is, how do you overcome that pain?” she said. “It may be the wedge that stays with us for a long time. We have to get to a place where it does not become the most defining issue of our time.”