Obama opens floodgates for gay marriage support, but not all are happy with focus on gay rights

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 5/25/2012, 11:58 a.m.
It's been several weeks since President Barack Obama came out in support same-sex marriage. Since...
President Barack Obama

Educator Dr. Boyce Watkins, in a video blog at yourblackworld.com, agreed with gays acquiring the same civil rights as everyone else, but disagreed with what he felt was hyperbole surrounding the issue.

"I agree that it's important for gay rights. I have no problem with gay marriage," said Watkins. "It's not a big deal to me. A big civil rights issue is the end of slavery. A big civil rights issue is the end of Jim Crow. A big step for humanity would be the end of the mass incarceration that has affected millions of families and caused millions of children to grow up without their parents."

"Allowing gay people to marry is just a little extra icing on the cake when it comes to civil rights," said Watkins. "It's not going to be the end of the world if they're not allowed to get married."

In a recent Pew poll, 49 percent of Blacks were found to oppose gay marriage in 2012, down from 67 percent in 2008. But Cleo Manago, the director of Black Men XChange (a support group for gay Black men), told the AmNews that gay marriage isn't really something on the minds of most gay Blacks. He sees the push for gay marriage as a mostly white concept.

"Well, the push for same-sex marriage has been predominantly a white, mainstream gay community agenda," said Manago in a telephone interview. "It has not been something that's a primary focus of people in the Black community. That has to be made clear. People think it's one big gay family--that's not necessarily the case. They are entitlement-conscious white gays who aren't different from white people period."

Manago said most of the Black gay community's concerns have to do with community acceptance, self-acceptance and finding a safe place in the community to "just be." He said there's a cultural divide between Blacks and whites in the gay community that's no different from the rest of the country.

Manago also took on the celebrities who have come out in support of Obama's statements. "Celebrities live in the community that's connected to the president, so some people are supporting the president's perspective, but not necessarily their own perspective," he said. "They want to be supportive of him--even if he makes controversial decisions--to help him win. It's sort of predictable."

And just in case the AmNews didn't hear it the first time, Manago wanted to remind everyone who he felt was really leading the gay marriage charge. "It's white run, white controlled and white determined," Manago said. "It's not this big, multicolored thing. Blacks don't necessarily feel connected to this fight."