Making Black History for Gay Rights
Last spring when President Barack Obama announced his “evolving” support for marriage equality, many conservative groups were confident it would woo black voters to their side and ultimately deliver a death-blow to the president’s reelection bid. They, as is often the case, were certain that President Obama’s words would create a divide in “the black church” and the overall black community. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Instead, when President Obama took to the White House pulpit to deliver his second inaugural address on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he did so on the heels of an election that garnered the largest African-American voter turnout in history, including 95 percent of black Protestant voters’ support .
The work to paint African-Americans and “the black church” as a monolith has a long and sordid history. Even before the shameful passing of Prop. 8, media outlets and community groups painted the African American community as inherently homophobic and intolerant to LGBT social justice. As a result, welcoming and affirming faith leaders stepped to the front.
Using a strategy to engage, educate and encourage, we used our collective intellectual, influential and economic power to show how discrimination is interconnected and how it is not healthy for the black community to gauge their worth based upon a white evangelical hegemony. Our work was emboldened by the support of younger African Americans articulating a growing agitation against the irrelevance, bigotry and what I call bhomophobia (black homophobia highly influenced by the desire to be seen as acceptable citizens by white Americans). Still, it is true that black homophobia is too often present in black churches across America, so it is good that faith leaders began playing active roles in advocacy organizations such as the National Black Justice Coalition, GLAAD, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, the Human Rights Campaign and Many Voices. Black theologians and social justice advocates strengthened their long-standing work within the black community and among black churches. This allowed us to be visible and to challenge the misconception that LGBT issues don’t affect communities of color and people of faith.