Civil rights legend Joseph Lowery backs gay marriage: ‘If you believe in equal rights, you have to grant them to all people’

Updated

When President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage last week, there was speculation that the move could hurt him among one of the most reliable parts of his base – African-American voters, who support gay nuptials at a significantly lower rate than whites.

But one legendary civil rights leader says Obama’s decision is in keeping with the values his own movement embodied.

“I couldn’t imagine myself denying a right to my neighbor, my fellow citizen, that I enjoy myself,” Rev. Joseph Lowery told Al Sharpton on PoliticsNation Wednesday. “I don’t think you can say we believe in equal rights for some people but not for others. I think that’s what we call an oxymoron. I think if you believe in equal rights, you have to grant them to all the people.”

As Sharpton explained, Lowery, now 90, was a close ally of Martin Luther King, and a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, the 1965 March for Voting Rights, and several other key episodes of the civil rights movement.

Sharpton also asked Lowery about recent voter suppression efforts in states controlled by Republicans. Backers of the new laws have cited the threat of voter fraud – a virtually non-existent problem – but the result could be to make it harder for millions of low-income and minority Americans to vote this fall.

“The issue of voter fraud is a smokescreen to give the people who are in power increased opportunity to remain there,” Lowery said.

Al Sharpton, Marriage and Civil Rights

Civil rights legend Joseph Lowery backs gay marriage: 'If you believe in equal rights, you have to grant them to all people'

Updated