The Black church was a mainstay and source of inspiration during the darkest days of oppression for Blacks in America. As important, the Black church was seen as a source of community organizing that was translated into political activism and community advocacy.
Yet, the Black community has developed a certain measure of hubris and complacency about civil rights since the 1960’s, when the legal landscape for Blacks changed because of new laws and Supreme Court decisions. Because activism in the Black community has become fat, lazy and content, it becomes easier to believe that in 2012, the Black Church is being used as a wedge and source of intolerance. The target for this discrimination is against another group that is being marginalized and deprived of equal protection under the law – the LGTBQ community.
It is never appropriate for this country to pursue laws and policies that discriminate. Discrimination runs counter to the vision of America that is expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the policies and procedures of the country set forth in the US Constitution, as it has been amended.
As I did in 2010, I won’t discuss the religious arguments that have been raised against Marriage Equality. Why? Because the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment creates a separation of church and state, this takes religion out of this situation for me and many others. If a church wants to refuse to recognize same sex marriages, I would go to the mat to protect their religious liberty, which is also constitutionally protected. But we aren’t talking about religious ceremonies and beliefs. When it comes to Marriage Equality, the conversation is about equal protection under the law.
I am struck by how many people don’t recognize that marriage is also a civil, legal contract between two parties. In the same way that buying a house is done according to the law and in a way that bars discrimination, the civil contract of marriage should be viewed through the same prism. The law cannot, and must not, be selectively applied. Equal protection under the law is guaranteed to every American by the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment doesn’t say “equal protection, provided that certain religious factions are okay with it.”
There are some who ask why must same sex couples have marriage equality? Why isn’t a “civil union” sufficient for “them?” When Black folks ask this question, I find it especially painful. It is within the lifetime of many Black folks uttering this despicable question that we were told to be content with “separate but equal” education, public facilities, and limitations on our ability to marry who we loved. Segregation of Blacks was rationalized with Bible verses in the beliefs strongly held by God-fearing, hate mongering Christians. Bible verses were cited as the moral rationalization for depriving American citizens of their liberty, and from their equal measure of citizenship.
No citizen should be required to accept a second-class status flowing from any legal transaction or status. This disgusting approach is not only illegal; it is also immoral in the country that is the leader of the free world. In the way that only equality was, and is, sufficient for the Black community and women, the LGBTQ community has every right to demand and expect nothing less as well. It would be hypocritical for anyone engaged in the fight for social justice to accept anything less. As Black folks and women continue to struggle for the full realization of equality, the LGBT community must realize that the struggle will be long and difficult.
Because the vote is such a uniquely essential tool in the political process, I have a heightened measure of disgust for the members of the Black clergy who have stated that they will tell their congregations to stay at home and not vote for Barack Obama in November. What? We are in a time when states like Florida are purging thousands of voters from the voter rolls, and 34 states have voter ID laws in an effort to disenfranchise the Black and Latino community, the elderly and the young. The American Legislative Executive Council (“ALEC”), it appears, didn’t have to lift a finger. Some remarkably ignorant and short-sighted members of the Black clergy have been more than happy to do ALEC’s dirty work. The Black clergy has a legacy of empowering its community and preaching about liberation and justice that is inextricably intertwined with the history of Blacks in America. These members of the clergy advocating for the same type of fear and discrimination that attempted to subjugate and humiliate Blacks for centuries. The most damaging to the psyche and reality of Black folks is the fact that some members of the Black clergy are encouraging voters to stay away from the polls during an election that will prove crucial to the fate of under-represented minorities. What is the justification for this civic malpractice? A stance on a single social issue, grounded in bigotry. I find this position unbelievably dangerously reckless and irresponsible.
What everyone must bear in mind is the fact that the expansion of justice and liberty in America serves to enhance the country, not diminish it. The elimination of the last vestiges of unequal protection under the law doesn’t infringe upon other Americans’ liberty, especially the Black community. In the wake of President Obama’s statement about his evolved position on Marriage Equality, Black celebrities, such as Will Smith, Chris Rock, Jay-Z, and most interestingly, General Colin Powell have all stepped forward to express their support for same sex marriage. President Obama and these celebrities aren’t the only ones in the Black Community to evolve in their position about Marriage Equality, but the changing attitudes reflect a community in the process of changing its mind. Hopefully the shift in attitude in the Black community, known to be socially conservative, bodes well for the rest of the country. Opposition to same sex marriage in the Black Community has decreased after the President’s interview, but that isn’t necessarily translating into increased support for gay marriage. It is a work in progress.
It isn’t enough to say that you no longer support discrimination. Those no longer in opposition to Marriage Equality must remember the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” America, home of the American Dream, must no longer give the full measure of liberty to some, while actively seeking to discriminate against others. “Equal Justice Under Law.” It is what is inscribed on the building that houses the US Supreme Court. These words cannot merely be decorative. They have to have practical application…for every American. Any other approach is legally wrong and morally offensive.
I guess the level of hypocrisy about Marriage Equality is en vogue in the Black community. But I don’t understand it. There must be a new Black Community embracing this moral and legal hypocrisy. I guess hypocrisy is the new Black.