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The Black Gay-Straight Alliance

President Obama's evolution on same-sex marriage has inspired a new generation of African-American LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activists. And the surprise is that many of them are straight and Christian.

Last month the National Black Justice Coalition sponsored its third annual Out on the Hill summit, which brought together a strong group of African-American leaders, activists and media professionals — all committed to NBJC's mission of empowering black LGBT Americans and helping to eradicate both homophobia and racism. White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett and the Rev. Delman Coates of the 8,000-member Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., were among the many prominent figures who lent their solidarity.

"It's extremely important to have straight allies, but especially faith leaders who believe in our cause," said Kimberley McLeod, NBJC's communications director. "The more people see important voices in their own communities speaking out in favor of gay rights and marriage equality, they realize it's OK for them to evolve — just like President Obama did."

McLeod's honest approach unveils the conundrum at the heart of what many African Americans still struggle with: the full embrace of gay rights as civil rights. The conventional wisdom among the political chattering classes is that the black community is deeply religious and socially conservative — if not openly homophobic. The marriage-equality endorsements of high-profile religious leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Otis Moss of Chicago and Coates, all of whom support the gay-marriage ballot initiative in Coates' home state of Maryland, have proved conventional wisdom wrong.

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The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.