Legendary civil rights leader Julian Bond contributes the third installment to Americans for Marriage Equality, a web video series and nationwide public education initiative from the Human Rights Campaign.
In the 30-second spot, the NAACP chairman emeritus positions marriage equality as part of his legacy of "fighting for what's right and just." A former Georgia state representative, Bond appeared at the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C. and advocated for marriage equality legislation in the New Jersey and Maryland legislatures in recent years.
"Gay and lesbian couples have the same values as everyone else," he says in the video. "Love, commitment and stable families. They should have the same right to marry as the rest of us."
The third video in the young series also is the third to feature a prominent African-American following videos last month from Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Academy Award-winning actress Mo'Nique. According to Frank Bruni of The New York Times, the string of black voices is "no accident" and it shows that the HRC campaign "implicitly acknowledges the complicated relationship between gay Americans and another minority group not firmly on their side," where polls indicate lagging support for marriage equality among African-Americans.
In an interview for his column on Tuesday, Bond told Bruni that the African-American community is "composed of many Biblical literalists" who "put a wrong and wrong-headed emphasis on certain Biblical references to homosexuality." Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who also supports marriage equality, cautioned that African-Americans, as a people once enslaved for the color of their skin, have legitimate concerns about attempts by gay rights advocates to appropriate "civil rights" language too broadly and equate the respective struggles.
Bruni concludes that the Americans for Marriage Equality videos, which build on the highly successful New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign, address the considerable challenges with a new approach gained through experiences such as the painful failure of the marriage equality bill to receive a vote in the Maryland House of Delegates last session. Under the new playbook, Bond does not mention "civil rights" in his video, for instance, and Booker talks about values like love and liberty, but not being gay.
"The Americans for Marriage Equality ads don't feel disrespectful," writes Bruno. "They feel very, very smart, the product of a movement becoming ever savvier about precisely whom it needs to persuade and how best to persuade them."
Upcoming marriage equality campaigns will test the messaging, particularly in Maryland and North Carolina, both states with African-American populations (29% and 22% respectively) far above the national percentage of 12.6%. The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP has joined the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign to pass a bill in that state, while the North Carolina state conference of the NAACP has denounced the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.