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November 23, 2012

Civil rights veteran Lawrence Guyot dies at 73

Today I mourn my splendidly cantankerous friend, civil rights activist and marriage equality supporter Lawrence Guyot of DC, a veteran of Mississippi Freedom Summer, who has died at 73. The Afro-American reports. Above is a video of him from a few years ago which features archival footage.

Lawrence was the only witness in two long days of hearings on the marriage equality bill in the fall of 2009 who made me cry. I remember him saying, at the end of a long day of hearings on the bill, that it pained him to listen to others demanding the right to vote on their gay neighbors' rights. He noted that he had worked with Fannie Lou Hamer during Freedom Summer, and met with Mssrs. Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner hours before they were murdered. Then he said, "This [the right to vote on other people's rights] was not what we were fighting for." You could hardly have found anyone with greater moral authority to say that. What a moving and powerful moment that was. DCist reports:

During the fight for same-sex marriage in D.C., Guyot also bucked many from his own generation to argue that marriage equality was a matter of civil rights: "This is a fight whose time has come. There is no middle road on this. You either want liberty for everyone, or you want liberty for non-gays," he was quoted as saying in the Post.

It was a privilege to know him. He told me once about the day he introduced himself to then-Senator Barack Obama, who said, "I read about you." Lawrence was impressed that Obama had studied the movement that thoroughly. Lawrence had strong views on a wide variety of subjects and was not shy about expressing them. Everyone did not get along with him as well as I did. He certainly never lost his activist's hard edge; but that did not bother me. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to him and learn from him. May he rest in peace.

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