There was a time when the only voices the American public heard on the issue of marriage equality in the African-American community were those of fire and brimstone, Bible-thumping ministers. Today, their vitriol is weakening as more and more African-American elected officials and Black civil rights organizations are speaking up on our behalf.
And as these voices begin to challenge African-American ministers' fetters on the community and their ownership of civil rights, African-American elected officials and civil rights organizations have expanded their outreach not only to their constituencies but also to the larger cause of American democracy.
'This is likely the greatest civil rights battle of our lifetime. It is fundamentally wrong to discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens. It is as wrong to write discrimination into our historic state constitution,' according to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Patrick comes to this knowledge firsthand. Given his ancestors' history of slavery, and also as a beneficiary of the gains from the Black civil rights movement of the 1960s, Patrick—the first African-American governor of Massachusetts—understands that the American ballot process should never be used to deny its minority citizens basic rights and liberties.
And with the indefatigable work of Patrick, MassEquality and others, Massachusetts lawmakers rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage by a vote of 45 to 151.
But where Massachusetts has the basic right of same-sex marriage, 49 other states do not. And talk of marriage equality in African-American communities in these other states loses much of its momentum and impact due to race-baiting ministers disguising their homophobic rhetoric under the guise of saving the endangered black family.
'I think it is not because Blacks are anti-gay [ or ] Black clergy who are on the right, but rather they are saying, let's protect marriage because two out of every three Black babies today are born out of wedlock, and there's a disintegration of the Black family,' Bishop Harry R. Jackson said on the African-American television talk show Tavis Smiley' on PBS.
As one of the religious right's go-to guys, Jackson consorts with bigwigs like Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, and James Dobson, founder of Focus on Family. Why? Because he is monetarily rewarded by them and others to maintain a wedge between black and LGBTQ communities through his High-Impact Leadership Coalition. With High Impact's mission to educate and empower African-American churches, communities and political leaders across the country regarding moral values, one of its primary focuses is the prohibition of same- sex marriage.
And one of the ways Jackson's organization shuts down healthy dialogue in the African-American community on the issue is with high profile ads attacking the rights of LGBTQ citizens in order to save the black community.
Case in point: Just recently, High Impact put out an ad entitled 'Don't Muzzle the Pulpit' in Roll Call, the leading publication for congressional news and information on Capitol Hill. The ad's goals was to block S. 1105, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention bill.
The Black church does not have the bullying power it once did in both the community and in the halls of Congress. With equally powerful institutions in the African-American community, like the historic NAACP and the National Black Justice Coalition, joined together, they are challenging the church's anti-gay rhetoric to acknowledge and save all Black families.
'Marriage is a civil ceremony that apportions some rights and responsibilities to both parties. If for some reason you don't want me to marry in your church, that's OK, it's your church. But don't bring your religious bigotry into city hall,' NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said in a video created by the National Black Justice Coalition.
And African-American ministers who say that the LGBTQ movement is pimping or hijacking the Black civil rights movement will now have a difficult time maintaining this rhetoric in the face of the recent statement put out by the NAACP's Legal Defense & Educational Fund.
During a June 12 Capitol Hill ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-miscegenation laws, the Legal Defense & Educational Fund released a historic statement: 'It is undeniable that the experience of African Americans differs in many important ways from that of gay men and lesbians; among other things, the legacy of slavery and segregation is profound. But differences in historical experiences should not preclude the application of constitutional provisions to gay men and lesbians who are denied the right to marry the person of their choice.'
The tide is turning in the American-African community toward acceptance of LGBTQ people. And even if?Black churches and faith-based organizations like High Impact continue to not accept us, it looks like the rest of the community will.