For years, the so-called National Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay group at the helm of many campaigns opposing the freedom to marry, has made it their focus to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks,” a strategy specifically outlined in a series of classified documents that came to light earlier this year. The organization has tried desperately to pit minority group against minority group in its efforts to push its agenda.
But in recent months, we’ve seen time and time again that NOM’s efforts are failing. African-American support for the freedom to marry is at an all-time high, and it continues to increase steadily as we approach the November 6 election. Our first African-American president also became the first sitting president to announce his support for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. And the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, adopted an official resolution in favor of the freedom to marry back in May of this year.
Today, Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP published an editorial about why the marriage campaign in Maryland matters. Marriage supporters in Maryland are currently working on a campaign to adopt Question 6, which would uphold the freedom to marry in the state. Governor Martin O’Malley signed the freedom to marry into law back in March after it passed out of both houses of the state legislature.
Let’s face it: Marriage for gay and lesbian couples is often perceived as a White issue. Yet, there are thousands of African Americans – our brothers and sisters, cousins, neighbors, and co-workers – who are gay, in committed relationships, and want to marry. My own cousin had to go to Canada to marry the man he loved. So it’s probably time the country started talking about the issue in more diverse terms- and time the African-American community started, well, talking about it.
And there’s no better place to begin this work than in Maryland, where a quarter of voters are Black. Marylanders are heading to the polls in November to uphold or undo the same-sex marriage law signed earlier this year by Governor Martin O’Malley. Same-sex marriage supporters, who believe in treating people fairly and equally under the law, have a 14-point lead – unheard of in the marriage battles. Most telling, African Americans in the state are now evenly divided. A year ago a majority was opposed.
African Americans are now sitting around the dinner table talking about it and realizing at the end of the day it’s about treating people fairly and making families stronger. No longer do ignorance and prejudice dominate the debate.
Bond’s editorial speaks to the inherent falsehoods in the idea that the black community does not support the freedom to marry. This year alone, we’ve seen such great support from prominent black voices, including Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Al Sharpton, Colin Powell, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Tony winner Audra McDonald.
Recent polling has reflected these jumps in support. A national poll from June 2012 demonstrated that 54 percent of Americans say they support the freedom to marry, a record high for a national poll. Respondents who described themselves as “non-white,” however, supported marriage by a stronger margin – with 59% in support and only 39% opposed. A poll from The Washington Post taken just two weeks after President Obama’s historic announcement saw 59% of black respondents saying they support the freedom to marry, with 65% applauding the president’s statement.
Support among African-Americans will only continue to grow in the coming months, and Bond discusses in his piece how significant that support could be. With African-Americans composing 25% of the voting population in Maryland, the community’s support is essential and could make the positive difference we need to win in Maryland.
To paraphrase a line from Bond’s editorial, let’s hope November is a win for everyone – African-Americans, marriage, and evidence that the supposed “wedge” NOM boasted about is nothing but a contrived device to further discrimination in this country.