While nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that legal recognition of gay marriage is inevitable and an increasing number of states are proving their belief to be true, a new documentary is telling a different story about support for same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Produced by award-winning filmmaker and journalist Yoruba Richen, "The New Black" takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community, the film's website explains.
According to Richen, the documentary, a follow-up to previous works that includes “Promised Land” and “Take It From Me,” is fraught with politics and personal stories on both sides of the same-sex marriage campaign. And at the core of it, the black church's homophobic tendencies, she says.
“The reality is that the African-American community and the black church is diverse and opinions on this issue have reflected that," Richen told POLITICO. "There were some black public figures who took stances very early on in support of gay rights — look at Jesse Jackson’s rainbow coalition in the 80’s — while others spoke out against it. Also in terms of polling, African-American support (like other groups) has varied depending how you phrase the question and the religiosity of the respondents.”
In one such poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center earlier this month, 66 percent of African Americans said that they believe being gay is a choice, a lifestyle that gay men and women decide to lead.
The poll also revealed that fewer Americans would be upset if their son or daughter were gay or lesbian, and that more people favor gay and lesbian couples raising children, findings that Pew attributes to the fact that most Americans now say that they know someone who is gay or lesbian. As Pew noted, "even holding demographic factors constant, those who have many gay acquaintances, or close gay friends and family members, are more likely to favor same-sex marriage than those who do not."
From Richen's point of view, the national shift in views on gay marriage has also been impacted by President Barack Obama’s endorsement of the measure last year.
But what may not have shifted as much are what some have called blasphemous comparisons between the Civil Rights Movement and the campaign for marriage equality.
In a column called "Gay Really is the New Black," New York Daily News columnist John McWhorter points to the black community as having a unique responsibility to help LGBT brothers and sisters in the fight for equality.
"As a consequence of its painful heritage, black America has a special responsibility: to be further ahead of the curve than whites on accepting gay people as full citizens," McWhorter wrote.
And by the title chosen for her forthcoming film, it appears as if Richen agrees. "Let's be clear, this is the unfinished business of black people being free," one of the film's subjects, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, says.
“The New Black” is slated to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 14 and is planned for a limited theatrical release later this year. Check out a trailer of the documentary above.