and more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people of
African descent are marrying.
idea that was once thought of as an anathema to black queer identity,
marriage, in our LGBTQ communities, is being celebrated and on the
rise. And many of us are now proudly walking down the aisle to tie
it no longer a white thing?" Jeff Nelson, a white gay resident
of Cambridge asked me as I was dashing off to perform the nuptials
of two lesbians of color -- Gigi DeRosa and Fulani Butler of Roxbury
-- on September 20.
black local pastors in Greater Boston and beyond still ranting and
raving that their reasons for opposing same-sex marriage are prophylactic
to combat the epidemic level of fatherlessness in black communities
nationwide, and to stem the demise of the nuclear black family,
what makes us still forge forward with this act?
with many of our family members not in attendance at our nuptials,
for reasons ranging from shame to religious indoctrination, what
message are LGBTQ Americans of African descent hearing now about
same-sex marriage that we didnít hear before?
reason for the shift comes both nationally and locally.
the national front, civil rights leaders of the 60ís such as the
late Coretta Scott King, Representative John Lewis, NAACP Chair
Julian bond, and Reverend Al Sharpton publicly offer their support
for same-sex marriage. As a matter-of-fact, John Lewis filed a friend-of-the
court brief in the Massachusetts case that led to our state becoming
the first in the country to legalize marriage equality. And, during
a June 12, 2007 Capitol Hill ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary
of Loving v. Virginia,
the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-miscegenation
laws -- that was sponsored by several straight and queer civil rights
organizations across the country -- the Legal Defense & Educational
Fund of the NAACP released a historic statement in support of marriage
equality explaining why the struggle for same-sex marriage is indeed
a civil rights struggle:
is undeniable that the experience of African Americans differs in
many important ways from that of gay men and lesbians; among other
things, the legacy of slavery and segregation is profound. But differences
in historical experiences should not preclude the application of
constitutional provisions to gay men and lesbians who are denied
the right to marry the person of their choice."
this commemoration, Mildred Loving, the icon for marriage equality
also spoke out in support of same-sex marriage, stating, "I
am not a political person, but I am proud that Richardís and my
name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment,
the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white,
young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom
to marry for all. Thatís what Loving -- and loving -- are all about."
These public endorsements of same-sex marriage by key African American
national figures and organizations helped shift the tide.
the local front, there was a confluence of on-going factors that
has had and continues to have a profound impact on how LGBTQ communities
of color now think about same-sex marriage.
2005 when Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates
& Defenders (GLAD), a white organization that framed the marriage
debate in Massachusetts, reached out to communities of color, inviting
a dialogue for an inclusive re-framing of the marriage debate, the
collective anger and frustration that LGBTQ communities of color
collective felt toward the organization began to dissipate.
having an African American governor Deval Patrick, whose daughter
is gay, speaking in support of same-sex marriage helped those in
our communities of color know that our state and governor are including
us in the struggle for marriage equality.
speaking in support of marriage equality, Patrick told members of
the Legislature in 2006 that, "This is likely the greatest
civil rights battle of our lifetime. It is fundamentally wrong to
discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens. It is as wrong to
write discrimination into our historic state constitution. The next
and last constitutional convention is rapidly approaching. We must
be organized to stop this discriminatory amendment, and prevent
it from reaching an uncertain public referendum. I pledge to do
what I can to build on that momentum, so that our Constitution will
continue to stand for liberty and freedom, and not discrimination."
2008, Dave Wilson, an African American gay male, and one of the
seven same-sex plaintiff couples who won the right to legally marry
in the landmark case Goodridge v. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
became the board president of MassEquality. His appointment was
resoundingly applauded throughout black queer communities. And,
with the National Black Justice Coalitionís publication "Jumping
the Broom: A Black Perspective on Same-Gender Marriage" as
an outreach tool to the black community, Wilson was instrumental
in having the organization conduct town hall meetings and public
forums throughout Greater Boston.
same-sex marriage is still not the most pressing issue in black
queer communities here and nationwide, these efforts nonetheless
generated discussions among us and in our communities in the context
of our families and lives that matters.
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe
is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary
at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American
church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate
as a Ford Fellow. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not-So-Everyday Moments. As an African American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is
frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here
to contact the Rev. Monroe.
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Bill Fletcher, Jr.
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