NAACP backs marriage equality

Benjamin Todd-Jealous

From staff and wire reports

MIAMI — The NAACP passed a resolution Saturday, May 19 endorsing same-sex marriage as a civil right and opposing any efforts “to codify discrimination or hatred into the law.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s board voted at a leadership retreat in Miami to back a resolution supporting marriage equality, calling the position consistent with the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution.

“The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people,” Board Chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock said in a statement. “We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, but 31 states have passed amendments to ban it.

The NAACP vote came about two weeks after President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage, setting off a flurry of political activity in a number of states. Obama’s announcement followed Vice President Joe Biden’s declaration in a television interview that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay couples marrying.

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, a strong backer of gay rights.

Gay marriage has divided the black community, with many religious leaders opposing it. In California, exit polls showed about 70 percent of blacks opposed same-sex marriage in 2008. In Maryland, black religious leaders helped derail a gay marriage bill last year. But state lawmakers passed a gay marriage bill this year.

Pew Research Center polls have found that African Americans have become more supportive of same-sex marriage in recent years, but remain less supportive than other groups. A poll conducted in April showed 39 percent of African-Americans favor gay marriage, compared with 47 percent of whites. The poll showed 49 percent of blacks and 43 percent of whites are opposed.

The Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights advocacy group, applauded the step by the Baltimore-based civil rights organization.

“We could not be more pleased with the NAACP’s history-making vote today — which is yet another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

A few months ago, HRC unearthed internal memos from the National Organization for Marriage revealing the anti-gay group’s strategy of driving a “wedge between gays and blacks.”

“NOM has pursued ugly racial politics seeking to divide people, but what is becoming crystal clear is that its strategy is not working,” Solmonese said. “Americans from all walks of life are uniting to support love, commitment, and stronger families.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, also alluded to NOM’s tactics in a statement responding to the NAACP’s decision.

“The NAACP has long been the nation’s conscience and champion for an America where all share equally in the promise of liberty and justice for all,” Wolfson said. “Today the NAACP resoundingly affirmed that the freedom to marry is a civil right and family value that belongs to all of us, and that discriminatory barriers to marriage must fall. The toxic tactics of anti-gay groups like NOM to ‘drive a wedge between blacks and gays’ will be washed away in the wave of righteous affirmation.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called it “truly a historic moment” and said her group “could not be more thrilled.”

“We are also not surprised by the leadership exhibited once again by the NAACP,” Carey said. “Just a few months ago, NAACP President Ben Jealous stood before 3,000 LGBT rights activists at our Creating Change Conference and spoke powerfully and poignantly about the ties of conscience and courage that bind us. ‘The NAACP and the LGBT movement have fought together for social justice since Bayard Rustin planned the March on Washington in 1963,’ he told the crowd. ‘He was a black gay hero who wrote the textbook on mobilizing the masses for jobs and freedom.’

“We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the NAACP working together on the many issues that affect all of our lives,” Carey added. “Whether it be fair access to education and jobs, an end to voter suppression and racial profiling, the right to love and be who we are free of discrimination — these issues affect all of us, our families and our country. Today the NAACP did what it does so well — inspires and affirms our common humanity.”

—  John Wright

Forum tonight in response to hate crime

The community is rallying together to prevent further violence after last week’s hate crime attack of two gay men in Northeast Dallas.

United Black Ellument, DFW Pride Movement and Resource Center Dallas will host a meeting at 7 p.m. today that will focus on “a community response to violence in the African-American community and the protection needed to prevent attacks,” DFW Pride Movement Executive Director Derrick Spillman wrote in an email.

Those in attendance will hear from speakers from the Urban League of Greater Dallas Young Professionals, Living Faith Covenant Church, NAACP and the Dallas Police Department.

With the hate crime March 13 involving two black gay men who were beaten with baseball bats until they lost consciousness, Spillman wrote in the email that there is an urgency of various community leaders to address the protection of youth.

“With the recent acts of violence happening to young Black men in Dallas and across the country, no time is more important to hear the voices of a population at an increased risk, young Black gay/bi/SGL men,” Spillman wrote.

The meeting will be at the United Black Ellument Office, 3116 Commerce St., Suite C, Dallas.

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison officer for the Dallas Police Department, said police are still looking for possible suspects, described as five black men in their early 20s believed to be driving a dark four-door car with 24-inch rims the night of the assault.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact Dallas police Detective Chris Anderson at 214-671-3616.

 

—  Anna Waugh

Banks Appointed to Citizen Police Oversight Board

Kris Banks

Kris Banks

On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board.  The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens.  The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department.  Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:

[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?

[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.

[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?

[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.

LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).

—  admin

NAACP Pres. Speaks at LGBT Center

BenjaminJealousLGBTx390 (Screengrab) | Advocate.comNAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous made a historic visit to the LGBT Community Center in New York City on Wednesday.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Get Equal Now threatens to sue American Family Association over boycott of Home Depot

Cd Kirven and her son, Trevor

Get Equal Now has sent the American Family Association a cease and desist letter after the anti-gay, right-wing organization called for a boycott of Home Depot.

Last week, AFA called for a boycott of the home improvement retailer because it sponsored several gay Pride events this year and offers domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Cd Kirven, a Dallas resident and co-founder of Get Equal Now, sent AFA president Tim Wildmon the cease and desist letter after speaking to several attorneys.

“In the process of attacking us, you are attacking our children,” Kirven told AFA.

Kirven said she had been formulating the plan for a while.

“When I heard the tea party calling the NAACP racists, I said, ‘Why can’t the LGBT community do that to the AFA or NOM?’” Kirven said.

She had the letter to AFA notarized and sent return receipt requested. Attorneys advised her to wait for a reply or, without a reply, wait a month, monitor the hate speech on their website and then file a lawsuit.

Several attorneys are interested in pursuing the case, according to Kirven. She said the LGBT community has not taken this approach before.

“I believe enough’s enough,” she said. “When you go after my son, I am going to defend him with every last breath.”

Kirven shares custody of her 5-year-old son, Trevor, with a former partner.

“I don’t want to see another kid commit suicide behind the intolerant behavior of AFA,” Kirven said. “NOM is next. The LGBT community is tired of the verbal and financial abuse of those organizations. Some of us don’t make it through the process. It has to stop. If the government won’t take action, Get Equal Now will.”

Kirven said the AFA says the LGBT community is damaging marriage. If that’s the case, she wondered why Massachusetts and Vermont, which both allow same-sex marriage, have two of the lowest divorce rates.

“We’re not damaging marriage. They’re the ones with a 75 percent divorce rate,” she said of heterosexual couples.

Kirven also filed a complaint against AFA with the Justice Department and has contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center about listing them as a hate group. SPLC lists other groups such as the Family Research Institute in Colorado Springs as a hate group for its anti-gay activity.

Kirven is also encouraging people to send letters to Home Depot thanking them for supporting LGBT families. At Pride events, the company offers family-friendly areas where it gives out balloons to the children.

Here’s the text of Get Equal Now’s letter to the AFA:

“Good evening! I’m seriously concerned about the physical welfare of our childre because of your written and verbal harassment of the LGBT Community. One example of your successful intimidation tactics was American Family Association’s Boycott of the Ford Company in 2005 to 2008. Now you are leading an intimidation campaign against Home Depot.

“In protection of our families and our children, I’m serving American Family Association with a cease and desist order. If this intimidating, manipulative and high-pressure tactics do not stop then we will take the responsibility upon ourselves to protect that right by suing your organization for defamation. The constant attacks of the LGBT community and AFA’s fear mongering has to stop. You promote the damage your organization done to my community and those impatc lead to hate crimes, teen suicides and isolation of the LGBT community. This order demands that you stop the verbal abuse of our community on radio, television and in print.”

The letter to Home Depot is posted as a petition online and can be signed by going here.

—  David Taffet