BY BOB ROEHR
Striking differences between Black and white same-sex households have emerged from an analysis of the 2000 census data. Those differences point to a greater need for legal protection for Black relationships, particularly the protections that can be found through marriage.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) issued the report 'Black Same-Sex Households in the United States' Oct. 6.
The U.S. Census allowed cohabiting same sex couples to self-identify as 'unmarried partners,' a practice begun with the 1990 census and continued in 2000. Some 600,000 couples did so in the last census, including some 85,000, or 14%, who also were Black.
'In many ways Black same-sex couples resemble Black married opposite-sex couples,' said Policy Institute director Sean Cahill. They are heavily concentrated in the South and in 10 large cities. Black lesbians were almost as likely to be raising children as their heterosexual counterparts, 61% to 69%; while Black male couples reported a lower though still substantial rate of 46% of household with children.
However, 'Black same-sex couples earn less than Black married couples and are less likely to own the home that they live in,' he said. Lesbians are four times as likely to have served in the military.
Compared with the white same-sex couples who self-identified in the census, Blacks 'are nearly twice as likely to be raising children; earn about $20,000 a less in income; are less likely to own the home they live in; and are more likely to hold public sector jobs that may offer domestic-partner health insurance,' Cahill said.
As a result, the antigay activities of by social conservatives 'disproportionately threatens Black same-sex couples ... . Black gay and lesbian couples have more to gain from the ability to marry and more to lose if marriage and other forms of partner recognition are banned.'
'This report demonstrates that gays and lesbians are woven into African American communities wherever we are,' said H. Alexander Robinson, strategic director of the NBJC. 'It makes clear that the tradition of the tight, strong African American family is alive and well in Black same-sex households. It reveals Black gay couples to be parents at much higher rates than anyone expected.'
'It breaks the silence and amplifies the voices of Black gay Americans. In doing so it makes clear how antigay rhetoric, antigay policies, and antigay legislation such as the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' and the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) and its counterparts in the states will disproportionately harm Black gay families.'
'This underscores the fact that we are part of the [civil rights and gay rights] movement,' said Mandy Carter, executive director of Southerners on New Ground. 'It helps challenge the unrelenting attack by the predominately white radical right trying to do outreach to conservative Black churches to bring that wedge down between our Black community and our gay community.'
'We are Black and we are gay. Trying to compartmentalize that is not very healthy,' she said. 'We have to be out and organized in our communities.'
'Homophobia, racism, and sexism are really three heads of the same monster,' said Rev Ken Samuel pastor of the Victory Church of Stone Mountain, Ga. 'We must do battle against that evil with all of the consciousness and spirit of good will that we can muster.'
He said the social pressures of homophobia 'works havoc with the health of the Black community' by encouraging deceit and 'the down low, due to fear of being ridiculed, isolated, and ostracized in religious communities.' And this feeds the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Rev. Samuel said, 'Many Black same-gender-loving persons have been coerced into marriage in order to prove themselves as worthy members of the community and the church.' Often those marriages result in children, who stay with the parent when the adult comes to terms with their sexual orientation.
Carter and Robinson said that part of the reason why there are more likely to be children within Black same-sex households is a decreased willingness to put children up for adoption and a greater prevalence of extended families within the Black community. Black same-sex couples 'often are raising siblings, nieces or nephews,' Robinson said.
He was surprised by the vote on the FMA by some members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He said it was the result of 'a very, very well orchestrated plan to put in calls, by religious conservatives, to put pressure on them,' from their constituents.
'Because social conservatives have been so clever at conflating the issues of religious sacraments and civil marriage, we have had to redouble our efforts to educate' members of the Black community, said Robinson.
Rev. Samuel added, 'When you lay the case out for Black Caucus members here in Georgia [in dealing with the state marriage amendment], they were clearly able to see that this amendment is a bad precedent for all of us who have faced systemic discrimination in society.'
'Black Same-Sex Households in the United States' is available online at: www.thetaskforce.org/reslibrary/list.cfm?pubTypeID=2