It’s been several weeks since President Barack Obama came out in support same-sex marriage. Since then, many other prominent Black figures and celebrities have followed suit. Rappers, actors, activists and civil rights leaders have put out statements and given interviews in support of same-sex marriage.
“What people do in their own homes is their business,” rapper Jay-Z told CNN. “And you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business.”
“It’s no different than discriminating against Blacks,” Will Smith said.
“If anybody can find someone to love them and to help them through this difficult thing that we call life, I support them in any shape or form,” Smith continued.
“He finally came around, didn’t he?” said Janet Jackson during an interview with the television show “Extra.” “He finally came around; good for him.”
Others took to Twitter to voice their pleasure with Obama for coming out for same-sex marriage. “Honestly, it’s about time! This is great news!” said Alicia Keys on Twitter.
But the biggest statement of support backing Obama wasn’t heard until Nation Action Network President the Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond, president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Engagement Melanie Campbell and Southern Christian Leadership Conference President the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery released a joint statement. The statement backed up Obama on what some people have called the leading civil rights issue of the 21st century.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” read the statement. “As leaders in today’s Civil Rights Movement, we stand behind President Obama’s belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to join in civil marriages. We also affirm that individuals may hold different views on this issue but still work together toward our common goals: fair housing and equitable education, affordable health care and eradicating poverty, all issues of deep and abiding concern for our communities.”
But some Black church pastors aren’t happy with the NAACP backing Obama’s stance on gay marriage. The Rev. Williams Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, had this to say about the NAACP.
“The NAACP has abandoned its historic responsibility to speak for and safeguard the Civil Rights Movement,” said Owens in a statement. “We who marched with Rev. King did not march one inch or one mile to promote same-sex marriage.”
Same-sex marriage is an attempt to do the opposite of what Rev. King did, Owens continued. Its an attempt by men to use political power to declare that an act contrary to God’s law and to the natural law is a civil right. By paying homage to worldly political power and not to God’s law, the men and women in the NAACP who voted to endorse gay marriage as a civil right have brought dishonor on themselves. We will not stand by and let our beloved Civil Rights Movement be hijacked without a fight.
Blacks aren’t a monolith, and one statement from Obama about “evolving” won’t turn the tide of an entire community. While much of the mainstream media focuses on the false narrative of fierce anti-homosexual sentiment in the Black community (as if only Blacks held anti-gay thoughts), some aren’t happy with the focus on gay rights; they feel the biggest issues in the Black community should take precedent.
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.”