Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP's board of directors, said Monday that he personally supports marriage equality for gays and lesbians, according to a release by the National Black Justice Coalition. "I see this as a civil rights issue," said Bond. "That means I support gay civil marriage."
The coalition had been in discussions with Bond and other civil rights leaders for several months. "We hope Julian Bond's statement will help to encourage other African-American leaders to come out against marriage discrimination," said Maurice Franklin, a member of the coalition's board of directors.
Bond was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and later served in the Georgia general assembly. Bond is Distinguished Professor in Residence at American University in Washington and a professor of history at the University of Virginia and has narrated numerous documentaries, including the Academy Award-winning A Time for Justice and the acclaimed series Eyes on the Prize.
"We are very pleased that Julian Bond has spoken out affirmatively on this issue," said Keith Boykin, president of the board of the National Black Justice Coalition. "His statement helps to clarify two important points. First, marriage is a basic human right, and second, outlawing discrimination in civil marriage does not change the rules for religious marriage."
Bond is the second major African-American public figure to announce his support for marriage equality during the past three weeks. Last month, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates told the St. Petersburg [Fla.] Times, "I don't understand why the movement to legitimize gay marriage would bother people so much.... We have to fight to educate people and transform that visceral response...(because) one of the strengths of the black civil rights movement is that it's served as a model for so many other movements. We who have suffered so much should also be the most compassionate."
The National Black Justice Coalition is an ad hoc coalition of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered leaders who have come together to fight against discrimination in their communities. The goal of the organization in 2004 is to build black support for marriage equality and to educate African-Americans on the dangers of the proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marriage.