It was four years ago when the California NAACP made history by giving support to marriage equality in support of proposition 8, the failed ballot measure that sought to give same sex couples equal rights. Even though many criticized our position and challenged the civil rights connection to the issue, the California NAACP stood on principle, justice and fairness. Today, momentum is on our side, according to a latest poll, 51 percent of African Americans support marriage equality, President Obama recently announced his support and the National NAACP voted to support marriage equality at our Board meeting last month. The California NAACP is proud to have been a trailblazer in the civil rights community for marriage, but the fight must continue.
Some say that NAACP's support for same-sex marriage is equating the gay rights movement to our struggle for civil rights and racial equality. We disagree. The African American struggle will forever stand as one of the greatest civil rights movements in modern history. After 400 hundred years of slavery and100 years of marching, protesting, court battles and violence that lead to our freedoms and gains, our role in society is a wonderful legacy. But, as we continue the struggle for total equality in America, we must also fight for the total equality for others, whether it is another race or group. It is because of this history, the NAACP is the best organization to fight for equal protection for LGBT couples and to overcome the same irrational arguments that were once used to justify slavery and the law of "separate but equal."
According to the 2010 Census, there are over 600,000 same-sex couples in the United States, of which, 85,000 include at least one African American partner. Of that number, more than 3,000 black couples in the Los Angeles area and another 2,100 in the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose area self-identified as same-sex unmarried partners. Many of which, are working, buying homes, paying taxes and raising families. Many have served their country in the military and work in their communities as volunteers.
The question of religious beliefs is raised frequently. There is a separation between civil law and religious doctrine. Religious doctrine is sacred and cannot be legislated. While no clergy can be required to perform same-sex marriages, some religious leaders do support same-sex marriages and will perform ceremonies within their faith, along with Justices of the Peace, judges, legislators, ship captains and others in the secular world.
While our freedom from slavery was a moral issue, we did not win it on moral grounds, but on legal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The VII Amendment of the Constitution clearly states "To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations..." It is not about the immorality of institutionalized discrimination and the denial of basic civil rights, but because these acts violated the United States Constitution, thus the term "Civil Rights" apply.
While some may leave the NAACP because of our stand for marriage equality, others will join and together we will fight discrimination at all levels. Same-sex partners are members of our community. They are our brothers, sisters, children and friends. God created all of us and they, too, are us.