Black Leaders Step Up for Equality
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.