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Calif. NAACP is first chapter to endorse same-sex marriage

California NAACP president Alice A. Huffman (l), supports Mark Leno’s proposal to legalize gay civil marriage; Julian Bond personally is in favor of same-sex marriage, though the national NAACP has not taken a position on the issue.

This is good news, but sad, because all chapters of the NAACP should be against discrimination of any kind. When the organization held its national convention in Philly in 2004, the topic of gay civil marriage was purposefully missing from the agenda. Julian Bond, head of the organization, said that “it would be a healthy discussion to have…but I would be fearful of what might happen.”

So much for courage in the midst of states writing bigotry into their respective Constitutions. The NAACP’s ball-less homo-bigots are content to let it all slide, save Alice Huffman with her big brass ones in California. I’m sure she had plenty of resistance from many of the religious black members of the organization. (SignOnSanDiego):

The California chapter of the NAACP has endorsed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, marking the first time an arm of the venerable civil rights group has lent its political clout to the issue that has divided the black community. Members of the California State Conference of the NAACP narrowly voted at their convention last fall to support the pending “Religious Freedom and California Civil Marriage Protection Act,” but the group did not make its position public until this week, in advance of the bill’s first legislative hearing.

In a place like California, you can not possibly work for rights if you don’t work for gay rights,” said Alice A. Huffman, California NAACP president. “You either believe in the rights of everyone or you are in the wrong business.”

Spearheaded by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the measure would amend a 1977 California statute that defines marriage as “a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between a man and woman” to read “between two persons.”

Although other minority organizations have endorsed AB 19, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the NAACP’s backing is particularly valuable for gay rights activists. They have faced criticism in some quarters for calling the marriage cause a modern civil rights struggle, as well as opposition from some black clergy who regard homosexuality as a sin.

“To have the largest civil rights group in the nation take this important and historic stand is significant in the struggle to achieve full equality for the lesbian and gay community,” said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights lobbying group. “We are humbled and gratified.”

The national NAACP has not taken a position on gay marriage, although its chairman, Julian Bond, has gone on record as a supporter. NAACP spokesman John White said no other state or local chapters besides California’s have come out in support of same-sex marriage.

There is a great article in the July 2004 issue of Ebony that features several viewpoints in the black community, “Is gay rights a civil rights issue?” It features Bond (yes to the question), Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Pastor, Greater New Light Baptist Church, Cincinnati (a big No; he supported Ohio’s gay marriage amendment), poet Nikki Giovanni (yes), Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy (no; he’s one of Bush’s ‘hos on the faith-based take), and Mary F. Morten, former liaison to the gay community for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (yes and no). It’s worth the read, if you want some insight into the conflict.

You may also want to check out an earlier post, Congressman Mel Watt: framing gay rights for the black community.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding