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.”