The past couple days have been pretty hectic in politics, especially in the arena of gay rights. First, Joe Biden expressed his support of gay marriage, then the controversial Amendment One was passed to the North Carolina State Constitution (prohibiting legal recognition of and special privileges for any relationship/union other than a marriage between a man and woman), and today President Obama historically came out in support of gay marriage and in denouncement of the NC law. Pretty historic.
We haven’t spoken much of gay issues here. Quite simply, it’s a touchy subject, especially within the Black community. I’m not even sure if my views are exactly the same as those of my co-bloggers here. But personally, I think Amendment One, as well as the existing statute already outlawing gay marriage in NC and similar laws throughout the country, got things terribly wrong. From a moral standpoint, I think that even if you believe the Bible offers strong evidence against homosexuality and gay marriage ( I don’t), it also specifically prescribes that we love everyone and act as Jesus did. It also states that sins are equal. If you outlaw gay marriage as a sin, why not outlaw adultery or lying? It doesn’t make sense to me. To me it’s a way to ground our hatred in dogma…something that’s very easy to do in the Bible. From a legal standpoint, none of this should even matter, point blank. There is simply no compelling reason to legislate against gay marriage whatsoever. There is no state interest, and there aren’t any valid negatives of gay marriage for anyone. It sets an awful precedent, and in my reading of the Constitution sets the government directly against its original purpose….to protect individual rights, especially those of marginalized people without the power to protect themselves. I was saddened because this is my home, and I’d like to think highly of it.
Which is why I was happy to see Obama do the right thing and go from his “evolving” view on gay marriage to finally hitting level 36 and making a definite stand in favor of it.
Maybe Joe Biden’s premature stand forced his hand. Maybe he had a change of heart after the pretty disheartening split over Amendment One in North Carolina, THE 2012 battleground state. Either way, it’s pretty significant. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York states, “No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people.” That’s pretty huge. And it reflects now that over half of the American population agrees with him. But he is putting his reelection prospects in jeopardy, mostly because of a key group (especially in southern swings like NC) that voted for him in record numbers in 2008.
Black people. We simply don’t support gay marriage as a people, especially the older churchgoing folks among us who form the voting nucleus. Odds are many of you disagree with my stance or have a family member who does. One of the factors in Proposition 8 passing (surprisingly) in 2008 was that it was attached to the 2008 Presidential election, which had astounding Black voter turnout. Given that about 70% of Blacks polled in California supported Proposition 8, that was a big deal. And I can guarantee things are worse for gay marriage and gay rights in general among Black people in the South. I saw so many pictures of Black people fist-pumping over the news that Amendment One had passed and heard so much gay-bashing on Black radio that I, for a moment, wanted to trade my Black card in.
But Obama risked a lot with his statement, didn’t he? He doesn’t want to push away all those church-going Black voters who vote liberal EXCEPT in matters of sexual equality? There are many who project that this might be the case. The extraordinarily high Black turnout in ’08 helped him carry states like North Carolina, despite them usually being red. Does taking a stance undeniably for gay rights and gay marriage carry the risk of losing significant ground in what projects to be a tighter race than in ’08?
I think not. I think Black turnout will probably normalize to low levels anyways, and it’s not like people will all the sudden vote for Romney. Also, given the general homophobia of many of those Black voters who are against gay marriage, they have been used to supporting and voting for Presidents who disagree with them on the topic. I also applaud Obama for simply doing the right thing. You don’t see that a lot in politics and it gives me some sense of hope that the governing structure isn’t totally posturing. It usually ends well when Presidents do. It also indicates that the country may be ready for reform, as unambiguous Presidential stances on civil rights issues tend to be more so thermometers than thermostats. From a political perspective, it may have been smart to move left and be unambiguous because now it will force Romney and the general Republican structure to the right and away from moderates. That’s how it works nowadays, when being a Conservative seems to mean simply opposing what Liberals endorse. It also wins the further support of gay voters, many of which have been disappointed with the President’s shifting views on their rights.
So no, I don’t think his announcement was a mistake, morally or politically. But it does put Black people in the spotlight and at a crossroads. Believe what you like to about gay marriage, the fact is that a sizable component of our people are homophobic and have a general antipathy towards gay people. Bottom line. Justify it how you want…but it’s flat-out wrong. And we abhor comparing our struggle with theirs, but this isn’t a race to see who is the most oppressed. The fact is that people are being discriminated against simply because of who they were born and who they choose to love. We know that’s not right, and we know that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Within some of your lifetimes and within all of our parents’ lifetimes our people were persecuted and exiled from states simply for marrying outside of our race. We should be empathetic to all human rights struggles on this planet BECAUSE of the uniqueness of our struggle and our recognition of how the soul yearns for freedom. We can continue to pass on the hate of our oppressor and close ourselves off and ask “what has been done for Black people lately” or realize that we can care about the struggles of more than one people and that a rising tide lifts all boats. Or we’ll end up on the wrong side of history on this one.