In addition, The NAACP, the nation’s preeminent black civil rights organization, made history recently when it officially endorsed same-sex marriage. In a resolution passed by the NAACP board of directors, the organization affirmed the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
“The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, education, social and economic equality’ of all people,” the resolution reads. “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.”
This move came less than two weeks after President Obama came out as the first U.S. chief executive in support of marriage equality. After “evolving” for so long on the issue, the president drew a line in the sand and also provided a space for others to express their support. As a result, a host of politicians, celebrities and notables followed Obama’s lead.
Responding to the decision by his organization, an emotional Ben Jealous, NAACP CEO and president noted that the resolution was personal for him. “You have to excuse me,” Jealous said, choking up. “I’m a bit moved. My parents’ own marriage was against the law at the time and they had to return here to Baltimore after getting married in Washington, D.C. And the procession back was mistaken for a funeral procession because it was so quixotic to people to see all these cars with these headlights on, having to go from one city all the way to the next just so they could have a party after they got married in their own home. This is an important day.”
Jealous was not concerned about backlash from religious NAACP members to the resolution, a sign of a major shift in the black civil rights establishment. And yet, as Keith Boykin commented in the Huffington Post this week, blacks did not suddenly shift on the issue of LGBT rights; rather, they were evolving over the years. Moreover, despite an internal clash between social conservatism and liberalism on political issues — not to mention a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality in the black church — black folks are more embracing of gay rights and marriage than their white brothers and sisters. In other words, so much for the notion of rampant black homophobia.
Yet, there is some fallout in the black community over the issue of gay rights, as the Martin Luther King, civil rights wing of the black church vocalizes its support. One African-American pastor who marched in the civil rights movement has lost much of his congregation after expressing his support of gay marriage. Now, Reverend Oliver White of the Grace Community United Church of Christ — located in a black section of St. Paul, Minnesota — is attempting to save his church from foreclosure after meeting resistance from his congregation.
Meanwhile, a coalition of groups including the Human Rights Campaign and Empire State Pride Agenda are joining forces with Jealous and Rev. Al Sharpton for a June 17 march to protest stop and frisk. The silent march will take place at the Stonewall Inn, where it all began over four decades ago. The times are changing, indeed.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove