99 Problems, but Gay Marriage Ain’t One

The ham-fisted view that African Americans oppose gay marriage is narrow-minded and fails to capture a dynamic cultural evolution.

For the longest time we have been told that the Black community strongly opposes marriage equality, aka “gay marriage”. Since President Obama’s announcement  of his support nearly three weeks ago, a surprising number of prominent members of the Black community have come forward with similar sentiments.

On May 19, the NAACP (perhaps the most prominent civil rights organization in the country) endorsed marriage equality. On May 23rd, Colin Powell did the same. But the most powerful and bravest (by far) comments came from the hip-hop world, in which homophobia and blatant anti-gay hatred is rampant and often celebrated. Here’s the biggest man in the industry.

This fits into Jay-Z’s effort to clean up his image following his marriage to the nontarnishable Beyoncé and the birth of their daughter Blue Ivy. The following, I did not see coming. 

50’s views on the issue aren’t perfect (like many straight men, he is afraid of the legions of gay men that desire him), but hey, it’s a sign of progress and a testament to how far the country has come. So how did we get to our current view of the Black community and gay rights anyway? Surely, the polls contain at least a grain of truth, but it misses the larger picture.

A major reason is that so many of the country’s Black leaders are members of the clergy, who are disproportionately against same sex marriage. Until the President’s feelings were made public, there has been a great deal of silence on the issue, except among the pastors – and we assumed that the rest of the community felt the same way. Consider the Catholic Church for instance – whereas the clergy are among the most vocal opponents, the laity are, among Christians at least, among the most tolerant and supportive. Just wait until more prominent Blacks come out in support, just as Catholics have.

The Black community, like the President, will evolve its stance on LGBT rights and acceptance. Until now, no one has had an honest discussion with them about it.


Obama Endorses Marriage Equality

After years of evolving his position on the issue, Obama has become the first sitting President to support same-sex marriage.

For many this is an announcement that has been years in the making. When Obama stated during the 2008 campaign that he believed in traditional marriage, but that gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly and equally, most of his supporters thought of it as a wink wink campaign tactic to win over those Americans who were opposed to or unsure about gay marriage. At the same time, his detractors thought of this as a wink wink campaign tactic to win over those Americans who were opposed to or unsure about gay marriage.

Almost four years later, the expectations of his supporters and the fears of his detractors have been actualized. Last night’s announcement came on the heels of Vice President Biden’s blunt (as always) statement supporting gay marriage last Sunday.

Many were quick to attribute the Veep’s comments as yet another gaffe. Now, however, it seems as if it was all part of some tactical plan to publicize the matter in advance of the big announcement. Well, here it is.

2012 has seen the issue of same-sex marriage rise to the forefront of political discourse and legislation. In February, Washington and Maryland became the 7th and 8th state, respectively, (in addition to D.C.) to legally recognize marriage equality. And yet, earlier this week, North Carolina became the 30th state in the country to explicitly ban gay marriage. It might seem like a losing battle for marriage equality supporters, but a slew of polls (here, here, here, here and here) have shown that, for the first time in history, more Americans support same-sex marriages than oppose it.

I give no major props to the President because I think he feigned confusion and adopted his evolving position to avoid taking a firm position earlier. But then again, had he taken a stand in 2008, he might not have been here to make this one in 2012.

Washington Achieves Marriage Equality

Washington becomes the 7th state to recognize same-sex marriages. All eyes now turn to New Jersey, which may soon become the 8th.

On Monday, Washington Governor, Chris Gregoire, signed into law, the bill to recognize same-sex marriages, making the state the 7th in the country to achieve marriage equality. Opponents of the new law have already vowed to collect signatures to initiate a referendum that would seek to overturn it. As was the case in New York, the passing of the bill in the state assembly required the support of several Republican legislators who expressed their own personal and impassioned reasons for supporting the bill.

On the same day, the New Jersey State Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages. Republican Governor Chris Christie has already vowed to veto any such bill that comes to his desk because he feels that such an important decision should be made directly by the people via referendum. Basically, Christie is saying that he knows his party is on the wrong side of history, but that he does not want to take the blame when schmoozing with other Republicans nationally – especially if he is considering a run for national office in 2016 or beyond. Depending on how you look at it, he’s either playing it safe (for the sake of the wrong and increasingly irrelevant audience), or being a coward.

Chris Christie’s real reason for opposing marriage equality.

In 2006, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that gay couples must be granted the same legal rights as heterosexual couples (minus the term, marriage). In the five years since that ruling, none of the apocalyptic scenarios popularized by marriage equality opponents have materialized. There is clearly momentum building on a broad and historic set of changes that now seem inevitable in many, if not most, parts of the country. Years from now, we will hopefully look back on this and marvel at how such an obvious matter of human dignity and civil rights remained unfulfilled for so long.

Momentum Building on Marriage Equality

Microsoft joins the chorus of support for marriage equality on the grounds of business competitiveness.

On Thursday, Microsoft and five other corporations (Northwest employers Concur, Group Health, Nike, RealNetworks and Vulcan Inc.) based in Washington sent an open letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, expressing their support of Senate Bill 6239 and House Bill 2516, both of which seek to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Washington would be the seventh state to have full marriage equality following Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Microsoft’s official blog stated that “as other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families…Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples”.

This is not Microsoft’s first foray into marriage equality. Late last year, Microsoft and 70 other companies (including Google, Xerox, CBS, Nike, Starbucks, Zipcar and Levi Strauss & Co.) filed an Amicus brief with the US Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which, since coming into effect in 1996, has defined marriage (by the federal government) as the legal union between one man and one woman.

In July 2011, New York became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriages, but perhaps more importantly, it was the first “big” state to do so. The New York law was seen by marriage equality proponents as the first step in an eventual snowball effect of broader support nationally. Even former US Representative Bob Barr, the original sponsor of DOMA, has apologized for his involvement with the legislation and favors the proposed bill for the Respect for Marriage Act which seeks to overturn DOMA and recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level.

It will only be a matter of time before more states (another California referendum anyone?) join in, driven by both economics and ethics. If Washington steps up and recognizes what the majority of Americans already support, it will only be a matter of time before another Washington follows suit.