(Photo Credits: United States House of Representatives / Public domain)
You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love.
-Rep. John Lewis as he argued against Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996
Today, we bid goodbye to Representative John Robert Lewis who passed away last July 17, 2020 at the age of 80 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. In 2011, former President Barack Obama called him the “‘conscience of the United States Congress for his courage and unwavering commitment to justice.'”
John Lewis becomes the FIRST Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and his casket rests atop the catafalque built for President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral in 1865. #JohnLewis #GoodTrouble pic.twitter.com/wLfcdF7WdM— theGrio.com (@theGrio) July 27, 2020
Lewis—a farm boy from Troy, Alabama—was a civil rights leader and an LGBTQ advocate.
He spent his youth organizing and participating in lunch counter sit-ins; challenging segregated buses as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders in 1961; and at the age of 23, he delivered a speech at the historic 1963 March on Washington (It is the same event where his mentor and friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech).
Because of his activism, John Lewis was arrested at least 45 times for “charges like resisting the peace, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.” The most recent happened in 2013 while he was protesting on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.
On March 7, 1965, a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama led by then 25-year-old activist John Lewis ended in violence when “state and local lawmen attack the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas.” The demonstrators were demanding an end to discrimination in voter registration. That day, now referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” landed 17 people in hospital while dozens more were injured by the police including Lewis who reportedly suffered a fractured skull.
As a fervent LGBTQ advocate, Congressman Lewis helped protect and advance the rights of LGBTQ people by cosponsoring over a dozen bills. These include the following (check the complete list here):
- the Equality Act, a bill which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education and jury service,”
- Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), which “aimed to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and legalize same-sex marriage,”
- Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would “prohibit federally funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families and individuals based on religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.”
In 2003, John Lewis wrote an op-ed article in Boston Globe titled, “At a crossroads on gay unions.” He said,
This discrimination is wrong. We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. 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.
John Lewis was a Democratic congressman from Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, a post he held for a total of 17 terms since January 3, 1987 up to the time of his death. He received numerous awards for his decades of work as an advocate for peace, equality, racial justice, basic human rights, freedom, etc. including the following:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize
- NAACP Spingarn Medal
- John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award”
- National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award
- Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Barack Obama in 2011.
There’s an EPIC double rainbow over the US Capitol and #JohnLewis right now, as he lies in state for 2 more hours… @WUSA9 @CBSNews @capitalweather pic.twitter.com/YQBylLHDZI— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) July 29, 2020
Remarkable when we reflect on #JohnLewis life, his fight for justice, his sacrifices, how he crossed and built bridges…to think a man beaten to a bloody pulp for fighting for the right to vote, is today being celebrated by three Presidents, including the first Black President.— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) July 30, 2020
John Lewis asked The NYT to publish this on the day of his funeral. It is necessary reading. He writes, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something … Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” https://t.co/gNWQDpeAZt— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) July 30, 2020
His last words to the people were published in New York Times posthumously, reminding everyone that “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.” He said:
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.” Lewis added, “In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
Congressman Lewis believed that “The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy.” Let us all honor his memory and legacy by doing exactly that this upcoming November 2020 US presidential elections.
#JohnLewis's final gift; his funeral serves as an uplifting, timely reminder of America's essential decency and optimism. Three former presidents and House Speaker #NancyPelosi, who served with him for more than 30 years in Congress, culminating with a powerful eulogy from #Obama pic.twitter.com/EQX1NYPSmW— Marion McKeone (@marionmckeone) July 30, 2020
You can watch John Lewis’ funeral below where three former US presidents namely George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama delivered eulogy.
Thank you for everything that you have done for the LGBT community, Congressman Lewis. May you Rest in Peace.
I salute this ICON and civil rights giant. We must stay steadfast, awake, and let not his good trouble have been for nothing. There’s still work to do…transgender equity and protections; black and brown equity even within the gay community, etc! #TransLivesMatter; #BlackLivesMatter
my thoughts are mixed, filled with so much hurt and pain and anger and resolve. Anyone who has stood up spoke up pushed back or stood fast has done so for those present and coming behind us. Blacks had to fight for freedom. Women had to fight for the right to vote. The disabled had to fight for their rights Men and women had to fight for the right to love and marry who they choose…and this group group, everyone has had to fight demand…because one demi graph has told everyone NO at some point…our pioneering civil rights leaders are… Read more »
I was deeply moved. Thank you, Dave, for doing such an awesome tribute to an awesome man.
God rest his soul!!! A true pioneer indeed. It’s amazing how hard women, blacks, gays had to and are still fighting for equality. Racism starts with power and ownership. If you look back in history and read about marriage laws, discrimination, inequality, separatism, Jim Crow, slavery, affirmation action, women’s voting rights, etc, it points to a certain male segment of the population as the problem. It’s unfortunate how that segment of the population made it so difficult for others. One of them right now is freaking President of the United States. That is elfed up and have to change in… Read more »
So you are voting for the guy who wrote the most devastating crime bill to minorities in recent history? That makes sense.
Nothing wrong with this man in terms of humanity, a really excellent human being.
Lets also remember another great Black leader Herman Cain who just passed and deserves the same tribute and respect (If not more) than Lewis..R.I.P. Herman Cain..The USA Thanks you for your service!
that cheating, lying, self hating POS???
herman cain can burn in hell.
It didn’t matter to Congressman John Lewis what race you were. It didn’t matter to him or what color you were. It didn’t matter to him where you were from a sexuality standpoint.
Oh wait. It DID matter to him.
RIP Rep. Lewis. You are the finest example of embodying the American democratic ideal. Thank you, sir.
It is nice to know that this was a person who try to make sure discrimination for any group didn’t stop people from living a life as free as possible. Of course, change isn’t immediate. It is a process that sometimes takes many generations. It use to be scandalous to be a divorcee or from a single-parent household. Now, I don’t think many people care because the generations look to more important things to concern themselves about. Civil rights has been an evolving process with people like him pushing the civil rights stone a little more to the center. I… Read more »
Well done for a well put together tribute honouring Congressman John Lewis. I watched part of the funeral coverage on Sky and was moved by Barrack Obama’s eulogy. The fight for freedom and justice continues now more than ever! And tackling racism and bigotry is paramount. White racism within the LGBTIQ communities is still an issue and if we are to follow in the footsteps of great men like John Lewis, then it’s important that we look inward and clean up our own houses first!
Good for him. Bad for the hypocrisy of his numerous send offs attended by so many when there are different rules for the elite political class while others die and buried in silence alone in these times. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Taken from us too soon …dear, dear human/angel!! Thank you for honoring John and his legacy in such an approachable way. Heart broken 🙁
Grateful for his pure human kindness. Truly an icon. Thank you Rep. Lewis and thank you for this post.
WE miss you if there was ever a time we need an angel looking Dow night on us is now. They republicans are doing everything to strip rights away from people from voting made harder to anti abortion laws what’s next end gay marriage. Look down on us and sent a angel. Thank for what you have done.