The Myth About Black Voters

The NAACP and President Obama help change the conversation about African-Americans and marriage equality.

BY Lucas Grindley

July 10 2012 4:00 AM ET

The Human Rights Campaign isn’t surprised by the NAACP’s impact. It’s “a movement leader,” says HRC’s chief diversity officer, Cuc Vu. “It always has been.” State chapters of the NAACP have long sided with LGBT activists. The North Carolina chapter, for example, vocally opposed Amendment One, which banned same-sex marriage there. In California, the state NAACP filed a court brief explaining why Prop. 8 should be repealed. But the national NAACP decided it needed a clearer statement.

Blogger and North Carolinian Pam Spaulding says the NAACP endorsement pushed the issue of marriage equality into the conversation nationally the same way Amendment One did in her state.

“It’s one thing to whisper about your choir director being gay and closeted, it’s another to discuss whether that man should have the same civil rights that you as a heterosexual should have,” Spaulding says. “By having the NAACP and the president speak out clearly on LGBT rights, it spurs the conversations around the dinner table that did not occur before because of the self-imposed silence.”

The silence left African-Americans to wonder, she says, whether LGBT rights were relevant and fed a fantasy that black LGBT people didn’t exist.

For NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, marriage equality is very relevant. When announcing the new policy, he choked up, explaining that his parents’ marriage was once illegal. Because his father is white and his mother black, they had to leave their home state of Maryland to wed in Washington, D.C., in 1966.

“The procession back was mistaken for a funeral procession,” he said while holding back tears, “because it was so quixotic for people to see all these cars with their headlights on, having to go from one city all the way to the next.”

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