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Black support for marriage equality continues to grow…the NOM wedge is no longer working

Ben Jealous

NAACP's Benjamin Todd Jealous

It’s now flushing money down the crapper for the National Organization for Marriage.

Despite a documented plan to drive a wedge between the religious black community and the LGBT community to pass discriminatory measures at the ballot box, it looks like its last big win was in my state of NC, and they had to spend a lot of money to secure it.

In an article at SFGate, the topic California and Proposition 8 (now set to be taken up by the U.S Supreme Court) and where black support is in comparison to 2008, when the ballot measure banned same-sex civil marriages, provides a window into the evolution that spells doom for NOM and its ilk.

Surveys show a majority of African Americans now support those rights, said Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which campaigned hard for same-sex marriage. In Maryland, where blacks make up almost 30 percent of the voters, their backing was crucial.

“We’re talking about it as a civil rights issue,” and people are listening, Jealous said in an interview last week during a visit to San Francisco…If the issue reached the ballot again in California, “we would see majority black support,” Jealous said. “I’m very confident that … we would win.”

The President’s support for marriage equality came the DAY AFTER the amendment passed in NC, and the NAACP national came out for marriage equality 10 days after that. As you might imagine, that was a bitter pill to swallow here in NC, but what we didn’t have to benefit from did set the stage for the later wins in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland and Washington state this year. They wanted to do nothing to assist in the matter.Jealous:

“We figured that out too late in North Carolina,” he said. “It’s about protecting your neighbor or even yourself from a judge or a hospital discriminating against you. It’s not about dictating to pastors or rabbis or imams about how to run their house.”

…Jealous said he was particularly heartened by exit polls in four states – Florida, Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina – reporting that a majority of African Americans in each state would favor a measure establishing same-sex-marriage rights. “When we’re polling majority black support in Georgia,” he said, “the issue has changed permanently across the country.”

Both the President and the NAACP could have come to the same decision a year before, for instance — nothing about the issue of whether civil equality merited their endorsements had changed by the time they finally came around. With hindsight (and polling) to analyze it, the issue never hurt the President at the ballot box, and in North Carolina, the majority-black districts were strongly against Amendment One back in May. If they had led the way rather than following the polls (this is true of most reticent leadership), the discussions would have been occurring that could make change occur more quickly socially, if not legislatively or at the ballot box. We were met with a hilarious preposterous responseon the issue when I spoke with the Durham OFA rep prior to Amendment One, just an ask to support the President’s re-election. He narrowly lost NC (he only won it by 14K votes in 2008). Our fears about these issues far outweigh the impact of leading, not following.

But the key lesson for the LGBT community was that you cannot expect to change hearts and minds unless you actually do the outreach rather than take for granted that 1) minority communities, especially the churched, are automatically homophobic, and 2) you cannot successfully frame the issue in a way that cannot be heard. They didn’t get support from portions of the black community because they ceded it to the professional bigots, who didn’t fear doing the outreach. The NAACP (I have a lifetime membership, btw), is now walking the walk.

Jealous said Prop. 8 was also a wake-up call for the NAACP. He said the civil rights organization and its allies evidently took African Americans for granted and were beaten to the punch by clergy who mobilized much of the black community in support of the measure.

They realized afterward, he said, that “if you want (blacks’) support you’ve got to ask for it, ask for it early and build relationships.”

It’s about doing the ask, and partnering not only on your hot-button issues, but social justice issues that may not be in your comfort zone.

Photo by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights under Creative Commons License

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding