Battling black homophobia

    To paraphrase Martin Luther King, the long arc of history bent a bit further toward social justice on Saturday, when the nation’s most prominent black civil rights organization struck a powerful blow against black homophobia.In a virtually unanimous vote by its 64-member board, the NAACP decided to follow President Obama’s (belated) lead and endorse “marriage equality”:”The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, education, social and economic equality’ of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the constitutional rights of (gay) citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.”In cultural terms, the resolution is a significant milestone; it has the potential to change hearts and minds in the black community. And in electoral terms, the NAACP – a venerable, middle-of-the-road organization – gives Obama significant political cover among black church-goers, many of whom have long clung to a bigoted view of gay people (thanks to some passages in the Bible), and many of whom, as a result, might arguably have been less enthused about supporting Obama in November.You’ll note, of course, that the resolution concludes with an expression of respect for religion. The NAACP rightly framed its endorsement of gay marriage as a constitutional issue; it certainly didn’t want to contest the black church’s traditional reading of the Bible. So let me do the honors on that one. Better yet, I’ll simply quote from a sermon that was delivered a week ago Sunday at an evangelical Lutheran Church in Wisconsin. The pastor’s remarks speak for themselves: “Yes, it’s true that the Bible says some nasty things about homosexuality. It’s also true that the Bible has passages that prohibit men from cutting their hair, and that forbid anyone from wearing mixed fiber clothing, or planting two different kinds of seed in their fields, or eating shellfish. The Bible also commands slaves to obey their masters, parents to stone unruly children, and upholds as heroes of the faith men with multiple wives and concubines.”The Bible also commands slaves to obey their masters…Well, there you go. Black parishioners, many of whom cite the Biblical passages about homosexuality as the basis for their opposition to gay marriage, seem to have no trouble rejecting the Biblical passages that endorse slavery. The NAACP’s key point is that, politically speaking, one cannot cherry-pick the people who deserve equal protection. Granted, the socially conservative black pastors who helped fuel a rejection vote on the May 8 gay marriage referendum in North Carolina, and who flexed political muscle when gay marriage lost the big California referendum back in 2008, will still retain great influence among their congregants. But other key voices are coming to the fore.Obama’s gay marriage marriage endorsement has already prompted various black leaders – most notably, Jesse Jackson and South Carolina Democratic congressman James Clyburn – to follow suit. Even the polls have started to shift since Obama spoke; the latest ABC News-Washington Post survey says that 54 percent of African-Americans support Obama’s stance, the first time that a black majority has said yes.Back in November ’08, when the California gay marriage lost by a few percentage points thanks to a 70 percent thumbs-down vote in the black community, I wrote this sentence: “Some gay marriage supporters believe that Barack Obama can perhaps accelerate the black community education process” by coming out for gay marriage. That’s precisely what appears to be happening now. Obviously, the NAACP doesn’t speak for all African-Americans. Nor does Obama. Nor does Rev. Joseph Lowery, a member of Martin Luther King’s entourage, who said the other day, “You can’t believe in equal rights for some people and yet not believe in equal rights for everybody.” But the near-unanimous NAACP resolution, in particular, is a key barometer of incrementally changing black sentiment, and the arrow points only one way.——Mick Jagger got political on Saturday Night Live, singing a blues song about Mitt Romney. (Jagger is rarely so political.) The lyrics aren’t very sophisticated, but the last few lines are true enough. And Jeff Beck’s awesome blues licks carry the day.——-  Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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