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Everyone's New Favorite Story: Black People, the President and Gay Marriage

One of my least favorite news stories is back! You remember it from the Proposition 8 saga. It's the one about black people hating gay people. Unless you're that unfortunate black person who also happens to be gay. I suppose you're involved with some "war within." Wait? You're not? You just live as both a gay and a black American? Well, damn. Who knew?

From CNN:

Black church leaders recently helped lead a successful drive to amend North Carolina’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The Rev. Fred Robinson, a black pastor in Charlotte, says most black churchgoers aren’t hypocrites. They take scripture, and sin, seriously.

“Black people are not confused,” Robinson says. “If you look at the scriptures that oppose homosexuality, Old and New Testament, they are clearer cut than the ones people used to justify slavery.”

Yet there are other factors beyond the Bible that shape the black church’s resistance to same-sex marriage.

“It’s more than scripture – it’s history, culture, how we were raised,” says the Rev. Tim McDonald, founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council.

When the president first announced that his stance on gay rights had "evolved" to being pro-gay marriage, the person you were most likely to hear complaining on TV was the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, or some other white person, usually conservative, male and often Republican, giving the counter argument. But that quickly got boring as it was obvious these dudes had nothing new to add. What was the hotter angle?

Hey? Aren't black people supposed to be super into Jesus AND Barack Obama? How are they feeling about this?


Prominent Pastor Dwight McKissic said, "President Obama has betrayed the Bible and the Black church with his endorsement of same-sex marriage. The Bible is crystal clear on this subject and the Black church strongly opposes same-sex marriage. His endorsement is an inadvertent attack on the Christian faith." 


Unless you're a Christian who is fine with gay people getting married. Does that mean the president endorsed your Christian faith? Or if you're pro-gay, is it like some tag that nulls and voids one's Christianity?

Naturally, because a certain segment of black people are super into Jesus, it wasn't that hard to find some ministers and black conservatives to argue why religious doctrine should enter a debate about who the government can or can't marry, when the government is supposed to be largely separate from religion. The United States, despite popular belief in some religious sects of our society, is a representative republic, not a theocracy. You're not supposed to run laws through a Christian test anymore than you're supposed to make sure the Constitution is aligned with Islam or Buddhism or Wiccan rites. 

People tend to forget that. The government does things all the time that defy my personal moral beliefs, like start unjust wars and cut benefits for the people who need it most in our society, but I'm not approaching that from a theological standpoint when writing letters to my personal Congress Critter.

Besides, at the end of the day, most black people aren't one-issue voters. They're not monolithic and tend to be big picture people. As in, most -- even if they're grumbling about gay marriage -- aren't going to chop off their noses to spite faces concerned about crime, education, economics, social justice, our prison industrial complex, war, health policies, social programs and civil rights.

Two guys or two gals marrying each other is pretty unlikely to affect my parents' 40 year marriage, but cuts to our social programs -- like Medicare and Social Security -- WOULD affect their daily lives as retirees.

From The Root's Cynthia Gordy:

For African-American voters who are opposed to same-sex marriage, however, there is no evidence that it is a galvanizing issue at the polls. "There's been a lot of unfounded conjecture that black support for the president will wane substantially, with absolutely no data to substantiate that," Aisha Moodie-Mills, adviser for LGBT policy and racial justice at the Center for American Progress, told The Root.

Moodie-Mills argued that we already saw this play out in 2008 over California's Proposition 8. Even though 58 percent of African-American voters supported the ballot measure, which overturned the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state, 90 percent of that same electorate still voted for Barack Obama. The massive support held up despite the fact that Obama had spoken against Proposition 8 himself.

"You didn't see any falloff from black voters because Obama said that he believes we shouldn't be discriminating at the ballot box," she said, adding that, similarly, there was no backlash around the president's repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" or his decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

"The top issues for African Americans are jobs and the economy," said David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, whose scholarship focuses on black civic engagement. "In surveys on what African-American voters consider to be the most important problems in the country, which I often ask when I poll, gay marriage does not even show up."

And from Jesse Washington at the Associated Press:

ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) -- Like many black Americans, Dorsey Jackson does not believe in gay marriage, but he wasn't disillusioned when Barack Obama became the first president to support it. The windows of his suburban Philadelphia barbershop still display an "Obama 2012" placard and another that reads "We've Got His Back."

If Obama needs to endorse same-sex marriage to be re-elected, said Jackson, so be it: "Look, man--by any means necessary."

With that phrase popularized by the black radical Malcolm X, Jackson rebutted those who say Obama's new stand will weaken the massive black support he needs to win re-election in November. Black voters and especially black churches have long opposed gay marriage. But the 40-year-old barber and other African-Americans interviewed in politically key states say their support for Obama remains unshaken.

Some questioned whether he really believes what he says about gay marriage or merely took that stand to help defeat Republican Mitt Romney--suggesting African-Americans view the first black president less as an icon than as a straight-up politician who still feels like family.

"Obama is human," said Leon Givens of Charlotte, N.C. "I don't have him on a pedestal."

Of course, we're forgetting that there are a lot of black people who are also fine with gay marriage and what the president said was in-line with their views. From average folks on the street to me to Will Smith and Jay-Z to activist/Black Panther Huey P. Newton from beyond the grave. 

But those people are boring and don't fit a media narrative. What's going to get you more buzz? A black people agree-a-thon or this?

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This thing alone launched a flurry of press releases and rebuttals.

Lost in all this, the greatest threat to marriage is divorce -- which the Bible doesn't like very much at all, and is staunchly against second marriages. Yet, people stopped damning folks who have "starter marriages" decades, even centuries ago. Obviously, views over what's morally right evolve. No one's saying you have to marry the gay couple at your church (which is why the separation between church and state exists), but the state can't discriminate against two consenting adults who wish to marry in its courthouses.

But lets go ahead and argue this moot point anyway.

I wish people would be honest. Folks who oppose gay marriage do so because they don't like the idea of "normalizing" homosexuality in our society. It comes out of the fear of being one of the many heterosexual couples who "accidentally" produce a gay child. Little known fact: We keep getting more gay people because straight people keep making them. And there is a certain population of straight parents who fear having gay children and desperately want them to be "not gay." If society accepts their gay children as gay, that means they have to accept it. And they don't want to. Being "gay" is different and scary and weird and unnatural sounding to them. So they want society to continue to be a different, scary, weird and unnatural place for gay people to fit in, therefore reducing the numbers of gays by giving them no choice but to live a life in the closet. 

Just like in the good old bad days.

I get it. You don't want your kids to think being gay is OK because you're afraid that if you happen to have a gay child they will embrace it instead of fighting it. You want them to at least "try" to not be gay, right? It's kind of like hoping your daughter stays a virgin by you never teaching her about sex and keeping her on lockdown until she turns 18. Then she goes off to college and gets pregnant freshman year and you're all confused. BUT YOU SENT HER TO COLLEGE KNOWING NOTHING ABOUT SEX BUT WHAT STRANGERS AND MTV TOLD HER!?!?! How on Earth did that happen?

People are what they are. No amount of keeping them in the sexual dark will stop another human being from having their own thoughts, desires, beliefs and opinions.

Does it help to know that there's nothing you can do that can prevent you from having a gay child? Like, nothing. No amount of forcing them to engage in gender normative play. No amount of raising them only around heterosexual people and exposing them to heterosexual society will stop what has always been in them. Maybe it's time to accept this is out of your hands.

It's time learn how to accept this like we eventually learned how to accept divorce. And second marriages. And working/shopping/buying liquor on Sundays. Because I'm young, but I'm old enough to remember the dull Sundays of my youth when no stores were open in Missouri. When Sundays were a guaranteed day off for all. But when Capitalism (which adheres to no religion) came for your Sabbath and told you to work the fries at McDonald's instead of keeping it holy, the only people I remember complaining was the local Archdioceses. Everyone else kept it moving.

For all this sound and fury over gay marriage, even those the most opposed to it are far more likely to keep it moving. And Obama said in his second term (if he gets one) he will fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Gay people are all over your TV shows. All over your movies. In your books. At your job. Walking down the street. Holding hands. Getting married. Adopting kids. If you want to waste precious energy fighting the inevitable, go at it. 

I just wanted to point out you didn't really do that great of a job keeping the Sabbath holy. So what's this fight against progress really about?

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Reader Comments (9)

As always, well said.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpinster

I consider myself both a Christian and an lgbt rights ally. As much as I love my church and all the good the black church has done for our community, I'm not naive to the myriad problems associated with the black church, namely homophobia. What I don't understand is why some people try to make it seem as if every week's sermon is some diatribe against the lgbt community. There are SO many other issues the church addresses.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA Howard U Snob

Amen to that Snob! Great article!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMimi

The truth - and well stated!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGillian

Brilliantly put.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRayne Ratliff

Yep. What she said.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbluehand

You know Snob, I’ma have to say to you what I say to my students, “You must have been hit over the head with a book last night, because you seem to be asking all the right questions today!” You are truly calling out the holy-roller handbell choir today. You betta stop preaching before somebody turns a corner liquor store into a neighborhood church and calls you to be the sanctified visiting Pastor, and takes up a love offering to pay for your gas money home. Have mercy!

Sometimes I have to sneak a peek in my Bible to find out what is really going on. So I happened upon a little bit of scripture 1 Corinthians 6:9, Leviticus 18:22-23; 20:13 Etc., etc., etc. and I keep reading to try and find the part of the Bible where God says it is our job to regulate the gays and lesbians. It keeps talking about how YOU should worry about YOUR actions, but it never quite gets to the part of saying, “I am God and I can’t do this thing anymore, so I need you to take over!” It keeps saying in layman terms, “Worry about YO DAMN SELF, so when I come, YOU have YO stuff (changed from a four letter word) in order!”

We can go round and round about the Old Testament vs. New Testament scriptures, but I am not sure that you killing a gay person in this day and age will hold up in a court of law using the scripture Leviticus 20:13. Seems to me that you would want to take a closer look at the Bible and the times we are living in to determine your best plan of action. Focus more on how to ensure when you get to the gates of Heaven that St. Peter is not looking at you saying, “You were so worried about what gay people were doing that your children didn’t grow up in a loving home”, or “Your focus on gays may have served you better if you had put that energy into educating yourself using Proverbs 4:7 as a guide.”

I am interested in finding out what all these “Good Christians” are reading, so I can confirm why I am not fazed by the choice someone else is making toward their personal salvation. Maybe they aren’t from the same religion and therefore don’t care about your leather-bound Bible with the gold leaf writing that is in perfectly good condition….which means you’re probably not. Or maybe, just maybe the two same-sex people want to be left alone, like when you happened to slip on a d*ck in Freshman year and act as if everything was all right on that following God-given Sunday. I’m not sure, but maybe the gays were wondering why your pre-marital sex-capade wasn’t blasted across the News for all to see when all they wanted was the same opportunity to get married and get divorced all the while faking orgasms to please their spouse and buy a house to split when the children graduate from college and then move on with their lives and marry again only to divorce a second time and want to go on Oprah and tell their story about how Depak helped them find a deeper meaning of self all the while they were taking pain killers to stem the pain of heartbreak from their first marriage….you know, straight people stuff! Whew, let me breathe!

This brew-ha-ha is obviously big news at “The Church” and will help to circulate many-a-collection plate. However, if I walk outside the churches doors, and stand on the stairs of your church and look around, am I looking at the hood with brown carpeted dead grass, or a neighborhood that highlights the work of the Lord through the congregation? This is the first sin the Black church needs to worry about. “Don’t go talking about someone else’s back yard, when you haven’t cleaned up your front!”

Yes, I am a Christian--but I too am a work in progress. Judge not.......


May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJustice

Orthodox religious believers Christians and other conservatives don’t see themselves as fighting against progress they are fighting for our survival and to please God. We really believe in the God of the bible Koran etc..and love God but also fear God’s judgment. If we do not play by God’s rules we are destroyed, according to the holy texts, period no more progress of any kind will happen. When you see the correlation between Revelation and all of these natural disasters even atheists would have to wonder if the bible is correct and we are about to be destroyed like modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. Many religious people have a personal relationship with God and receive signs, visions and direction from God, so to ignore God and agree with a sinful world would be foolhardy since they believe these are the last days and they will go to hell for following the world’s “progress” and not God. Anyone who truly seeks God will receive direction and strength from Him to overcome any sin. I don’t believe Obama is really for Gay marriage he needs to win the election so that is what he thinks he has to say for what he sees as the greater good of winning the election. But I think he would have won anyway. Although all sins are equal and I believe Gay’s or anyone who needs the rights should have civil unions. The bible is clear on sin, that all sins are the same and that life should not be lived in unrepentant sin, sin should not be normalized. For example gluttony and drunkenness are sins that many people fight against and those lifestyles should not be normalized either. God makes his rules for valid reasons and true believers trust God and at least try to follow His rules and exhibit self control even though at times they fall they get back up and try again. When unrepentant sin reaches a tipping point God destroys the civilization and removes the chosen few to start a civilization again. Even though many unrepentant sinners don’t believe in God, He does not believe in them either and their disbelief does not stop God from starting the civilization project over with believers who will at least try to control themselves and repent for the greater good of creating a sustainable civilization.

May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

When I was a young adult I was somewhat of an atheist until I began to meditate and research different religions. I did not care if Gays got married and these are not my rules. However once you pray and meditate and God begins to give you prophetic dreams it is difficult to ignore them. Kind of like the movie by Stephen King “The Stand” people who pray to God and meditate often begin to get prophetic dreams they have to decide who they are going to Stand with the world or God. Most decide to Stand with God, believe in His word and feel compelled to spread His message.

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM
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