The struggle for equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people should never be held to the lofty standard of the Black Civil Rights Movements of the 1950′s and 1960′s. Those battles were not just about equality in civil rights, but equality in political rights. LGBT Americans have political rights, but what they lack are civil rights such as protections in housing, employment, and of course, equality in marriage. Indeed, many of the arguments used against interracial marriage are being recycled for use against LGBT Americans.
The NAACP lissued a statement saying “The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, education, social and economic equality’ of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment. “
The NAACP is one of the oldest Black Civil Rights Movements in America. The NAACP dates back to 1909, and is now 103 years old. Among the founders was W.E.B. Dubois, a Harvard scholar, as well as Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, and William English Walling. One of its most famous members rose all the way to the United States Supreme Court. That would be Thurgood Marshal.
Among the ranks of the NAACP were many Whites, including Walter F. White, who worked with Marshal, and William Walling, one of the founders. Allies are always welcome while fighting for equality.
Today, the board of the NAACP announced its support for same-sex marriage rights. The decision comes in the wake of the endorsement of the same by President Barack Obama. It does put the NAACP at odds with more religious based Black Civil Rights groups, and with many Black pastors and churches; however, there are several Black religious leaders such as Reverend Joseph Lowery and Reverend Al Sharpton who have spoken out in support for same-sex marriage stating:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As leaders in today’s Civil Rights Movement, we stand behind the President Obama’s belief that same sex couples should be allowed to join in civil marriages. We also affirm that individuals may hold different views on this issue but still work together towards our common goals: fair housing and equitable education, affordable health care and eradicating poverty, all issues of deep and abiding concern for our communities.
President Obama stated his view that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. This is a view that we concur with, because as civil rights leaders we cannot fight to gain rights for some and not for all. At the same time, we acknowledge that the President stated his personal opinion, which everyone is entitled to – both those who agree with him, like us, and those who disagree. The President made clear that his support is for civil marriage for same-sex couples, and he is fully committed to protecting the ability of religious institutions to make their own decisions about their own sacraments.
There will be those who seek to use this issue to divide our community. As a people, we cannot afford such division. It is our hope that conversations on strengthening African American families continue in a civil and respectful way, on all sides, both with those who support the ability of same-sex couples to marry, and those who do not.
We are glad that President Obama has joined Dr. Joseph Lowery, Dr. Julian Bond and so many others in full embrace of equality for gay and lesbian individuals in our country. We also welcome the civil debate on this issue that will surely spring. And we encourage all individuals to keep all issues of import to our communities in mind in the days ahead, and we seek to secure equal justice, opportunity and dignity for all God’s children.
Some Republicans have hoped to use the President’s endorsement of same-sex marriage to undermine him in the Black Community, but that may not be as possible as they would hope.
NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous stated in a release on Saturday “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people. The well-funded right wing organizations who are attempting to split our communities are no friend to civil rights, and they will not succeed.”
The Washington Post notes that:
Surveys show blacks remain generally uncomfortable with same-sex marriage. A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll in November found that 58 percent of African Americans called same-sex marriage “unacceptable,” while 35 percent said it was “acceptable” in terms of their own values and morals.
More than half of all African Americans in a new Post-ABC News poll backed the president’s statement in support of marriage, suggesting there may be an opening to for Obama to help push support for gay rights among black Americans.