Civil rights leader Julian Bond, who served as chairman of the NAACP from 1998-2010, has died at the age of 75 after a brief, undisclosed illness.
“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” wrote the Southern Poverty Law Center in a statement announcing his passing. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”
Among prominent civil rights leaders, Bond was an early supporter of marriage equality, telling The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart in a 2008 interview:
It just seems the right thing to do, the right to be married is a civil right. And I believe civil rights ought to be extended to everybody. Who ought not have these rights? What category of people ought not have these rights? I can’t think of one.
In that same interview, Bond also explained the link between the civil rights movement and gay rights movement:
“At the bottom it’s these immutable characteristics. You are what you are. And you cannot be discriminated against in this country for what you are.”
Said HRC president Chad Griffin in a statement reacting to Bond’s passing:
“Very few throughout human history have embodied the ideals of honor, dignity, courage and friendship like Dr. Julian Bond. Quite simply, this nation and this world are far better because of his life and commitment to equality for all people. Future generations will look back on the life and legacy of Julian Bond and see a warrior of good who helped conquer hate in the name of love. I will greatly miss my friend and my hero, Dr. Julian Bond.”
Watch Bond’s interview on gay rights and the battle over California’s Proposition 8 below: