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Eddie Long and Tyler Clementi news urges greater analysis

Julian Bond | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

In the aftermath of the Atlanta scandal, many are given to call Bishop Long's church "The Church of the Down Low." This refers to the homophobia-inspired fear that forces many Black gay men into underground lives in a secret sexual world--secret even from family and friends--a covert world on the "down low." The price some of us pay is AIDS.

As the Atlanta Constitution's Cynthia Tucker wrote, "Bigotry fuels the scourge of AIDS in Black America, and the plague is making its greatest inroads into the population from which come the worker bees of the Black church: Black women."

We need to sweep these prejudices away, as the Supreme Court did in 1967 when it eliminated the ban on interracial marriage.

If you're worried, as many ministers profess to be, that your church will someday be forced to perform same-sex marriages, never fear. Our Constitution protects the autonomy of any religious community to determine to whom they will or won't offer the matrimonial rite. Your sanctuary is safe, but please, don't block the doors to city hall to those loving couples who want the same marriage and civil rights protections you now enjoy.

Julian Bond is chairman emeritus of the NAACP and a professor of history at the University of Virginia and a scholar in residence at American University.