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Black Leaders Step Up for Equality

Timothy Kincaid

May 28th, 2009

While there is debate over the extent to which black Californian voters supported Proposition 8, polls consistently show that there is less support for marriage equality from African Americans than from other ethnic subgroups. While there are undoubtedly old and established cultural bases for antipathy towards homosexuality in general and marriage in particular, these can be overcome.

Part of the lack of support for equality among black voters may be due to a failure to craft the right message. But I believe that a large part was also due to a failure to use the resources that were available to reach and appeal to black voters.

Because while many black voters may not yet see the justice of our cause, many others who are leaders and influential in the Civil Rights movement, those who fought – and still fight – first hand against discrimination and indignity towards black Americans, are stepping forward to speak loudly on our behalf. They see the fight against discrimination to be their cause and they don’t see that fight stopping at the border of race or ethnic heritage.

Today we have two examples.

Julian Bond, the Chairman of the NAACP, sees a link between any effort to marginalize minorities and deny them rights others enjoy and a threat to the equal protection that all citizens should enjoy:

My own marriage feels in no way threatened by gay marriage – any more than its interracial nature threatened those who made my union criminal until 1966. My marriage survived the interracial same-sex marriage I attended last weekend. The couple had legally married in Connecticut, but their hometown Virginia ceremony was witnessed by 200 friends and family, most of them Christians, including the grandfather of one partner who conducted it. It was a rebuke to those who base their opposition to marriage equality on the Bible. Let’s all pray that those who want to block access to the church sanctuary won’t continue to block access to city hall.

The California court has given new meaning to the song’s line “California here I come, right back where I started from.” California law is back where it started, to the detriment of us all.

What is at issue is the arbitrary denial of a civil rite to some – if that’s not a denial of civil rights, I don’t know what is.

But perhaps more impressive – on an individual level – than Bond’s support, is this report from the New York Times.

State Senator Shirley L. Huntley, a brassy, big-haired Democrat from Queens who opposes same-sex marriage, received a call on Wednesday that left her momentarily stunned.

Maya Angelou was on the line, and she wanted to know if the senator might reconsider her position.

I would have pooped.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Angelou, who has a home in Harlem, said she felt compelled to speak out because she believes that legalizing same-sex marriage is a matter of social fairness — a subject that has been a theme of her writing.

“I would ask every man and every woman who’s had the blessing of having children, ‘Would you deny your son or your daughter the ecstasy of finding someone to love?’ ” she said.

Ms. Angelou said she believed that society made gay relationships hard enough without the added burden of making marriage illegal.

Although Sen. Huntley still intends on voting to keep her own personal priveleges and rights while denying them to her gay contituents, I am deeply grateful for Ms. Angelou’s efforts. Along with the efforts of Julian Bond and John Lewis and Coretta Scott King and Mildred Loving and Rev. Eric Lee and Rev. James Lawson and Rev. Peter Gomes and many many others in Black America who are willing to stand up and be known as supporters of equality, not only for race but for orientation as well.

These voices should not and cannot be ignored or underutilized in our efforts to win the hearts and minds of all Americans, not just the liberal white English-speaking ones.

Comments

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Richard
May 28th, 2009 | LINK

Thank You, to all of the people that get it.

David C.
May 29th, 2009 | LINK

“I have a dream….”

We have turned a corner. LGBT people have entered the mainstream of the ongoing civil rights debate: the struggle for gay rights is being recognized as a continuation of the struggle for civil rights for all people.

JJQR
May 29th, 2009 | LINK

Rev. Peter Gomes is openly gay himself.

a. mcewen
May 29th, 2009 | LINK

Maya Angelou got it right and underscored what the problem is. Rather than talking about a hypothetical comparison between the black civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement, there must be an acknowledgement that the issue of marriage equality is a black issue because lgbts of color are affected by it. We are not personalizing the issue in the black community.

Lgbts of color must speak out – via persuasion and encouragement.

tina
May 29th, 2009 | LINK

I love reading the news, b/c every day more people add their voices to GLBT rights and recognition!

Let’s not forget Rev. Lowery, who gave the Inaugural Benediction.

AMEN!

Glenn I
May 29th, 2009 | LINK

I so think a Maya Angelou spot airing in October of last year would have helped stop Prop 8. Not by herself, no. But women & men like her speaking truth, quietly & firmly, to the camera would have been an amazing way to cut through the hysteria ginned up by the Yes campaign.

Regan DuCasse
May 31st, 2009 | LINK

I was one of those black kids raised among civil rights activists in the family. I have long admired people like Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Maya Angelou and more recently Drs. Cornel West and Eric M. Dyson, and columnists like William Raspberry, Colbert King, Leonard Pitts.
These are all distinguished black folks of steriling intellect and experience.

I didn’t get my cues on gay equality from them, but from the basic moral principle of fairness. Allowing a human being to reach their full potential and an understanding that morals are about how much freedom you share, not how much you control or restrict.

It’s about paying attention to the needs of others and knowing when and how they are reasonably agreeing and getting along with you.

It’s tragic that the peaceful access to due process of law, compassionate participation in those things that DO sustain life and love and social cooperation go unappreciated. Indeed, defamed and perceived as suspicious.
Black people know about that, and shouldn’t deny that it also happens to gay people and is equally unjustified.

I have been humbled that gay folks trust me to speak for them. I have been treated to such unconditional love myself from gay folks, that it’s another gift I want to assure the opposition that they are missing.
A gift that it would be immoral to waste.

I am heartened that I’m not alone as a hetero black woman that feels this way.
We’ll get there, people. We will.

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