Michael Crawford

Rev. Al Sharpton on Marriage, Mormons and Prop. 8

Filed By Michael Crawford | January 15, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Al Sharpton, Black people and Prop 8, gay marriage

Rev. Al Sharpton left no doubt on where he stands on marriage equality and the passage of Prop. 8 in his speech at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta:

It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when the they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being delegated into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners. There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people's bedrooms and claim that God sent you.

Yeah, I know that doesn't fit with the white gay world view that African-Americans are holding back the marriage equality movement, but the reality has always been more complicated than some would like to believe.

Rev. Sharpton was in Atlanta celebrating the launch of the Alliance of Affirming Faith-Based Organizations.

Rev. Sharpton has been on record for years as supporting full equality for LGBT people including marriage.

Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign presidential forum in 2004 Rev. Sharpton drew raucous applause from the 500 attendees when he said that marriages between same-sex couples shouldn't be treated any different than "black marriages or white marriage." There was also a hysterical line akin to "telling gays they can't marry is like telling Black and Latino people they should just shack up."

And, while Rev. Sharpton was stating his unequivocal support for marriage equality in 2004, Sen. John Kerry was saying "Marriage is viewed as a union between men and women, and that is a historical and cultural view that I believe. And that's my position."

Widening the view a bit: it was white Catholics and Mormons who banded together to push Prop. 8 on to the ballot and contributed tens of millions of dollars to strip away marriage rights from same-sex couples. It was also white voters who cast the vast majority of the votes in favor of Prop. 8.

I don't deny that there is a great need for education and outreach campaigns focused on creating understanding between LGBT people and African-Americans. But, to ignore the public support of LGBT equality coming from Black leaders such as Rev. Sharpton, Board Chairman of the NAACP Julian Bond, Coretta Scott-King, Rev. Eric Michael Dyson, Rev, Peter Gomes and the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus is to engage in narrow-minded thinking that paints all African-Americans as anti-gay while discounting the anti-gay attacks launched, funded and promoted by white Americans.

This harms our ability to build the necessary alliances to win equal rights and ignores the existence of people like me who are both Black and gay.

Rev. Sharpton's words are not as much of an aberration as some white gays would like to believe. We, the LGBT community and our allies, would do well to let go of the stereotypes labeling African-Americans as anti-gay and open our minds to the serious possibility that we can build substantial support for LGBT equality including marriage among Black people.


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I'm sorry Michael, but I find this argument to be ridiculous on its face, particularly in light of your recent post about Melissa Etheridge. Al Sharpton no more represents the mainstream opinion of African-Americans than Etheridge represents the mainstream opinion of gays and lesbians.

There are plenty of African-Americans, from rappers to preachers and all points in-between, who are openly and virulently anti-LGBT, just as there are many from all other races and social strata who feel the same way and vice-versa. Cherry-picking someone like Al Sharpton to represent all African-Americans is just as wrong and ill-considered as when the mainstream media assume that Melissa Etheridge speaks for all gays.

I call bullshit!

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 15, 2009 2:33 PM

Rebecca,

I think your comment says more about you than it does about African American people.

And, you can call whatever you will. Some white gays have screamed bloody murder and claimed than Black voters were the cause of Prop. 8's passage while ignoring the fact that it was whites who get Prop. 8 on the ballot and whose votes resulted in its passage.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 15, 2009 3:35 PM

Rebecca, Michael never said in his post that Sharpton's views represent "all African-Americans."

Maybe you want to read the post again? I don't see how you can disagree with a plea to "let go of the stereotypes labeling African-Americans as anti-gay and open our minds to the serious possibility that we can build substantial support for LGBT equality including marriage among Black people."

Yes, exactly. Michael is showing us reason to be hopeful. He challenges us to question what we assume and what we overlook. I am glad to read his words, and am glad to read the words of Rev. Sharpton. I think they speak well for the future.

Michael, thank you for this story. Rev Sharpton has long been a gentle whom I admire. I find his words significant in general and especially significant in as much as his is a voice which is often listened to in the African American community and which has a great deal of credibility in that community. I remember his appearance on Boston Legal where he walked into court and defended a gay Santa, yes it was a fictional show but we all know that he would do exactly that in life were he given the chance.
The crux of your argument here as understand it has to do with stereotypes and scapegoating. It seems that as a community that has been so targeted through the use of these techniques we would try to avoid them ourselves but that doesn't seem to happen. Your own article attempts to show that the blame belongs more to white people rather than black people. The response from Rebecca is a countering with more racially based arguments in opposition to your own.
I personally find them useless in discourse about social issues or policy positions. I would also point out to all of us that the quote above used shows Rev. Sharpton not making use of any stereotypes or scapegoats, he does not point a finger at any particular group or class of people. He seems more interested in fixing the problem that affixing the blame. Perhaps we should all take a lesson from Rev. Sharpton in this and leave the racially based stuff aside and stop the back and forth of racial finger pointing.
It seems to me that we as a community are too damn easy to divide and then of course conquer will trail right behind it.

First, I think it's quite clear that homo/transphobia is a real and serious problem in the African-American community and in American society in general. Pretending it doesn't exist or that it's any less of a real problem then it clearly is serves no one, least of all the LGBT community.

Second, Michael holds up Al Sharpton, a liberal African-American celebrity media and political figure, to bolster his claim that African-Americans aren't as homophobic as some think. The very location in which Sharpton said those words, a southern black church, should tell you what Sharpton himself would likely think of Michael's argument.

I give Sharpton credit. He doesn't just preach equality and fairness for his own community but also TO his own and calls them out on their own failings when he sees a need. To use that as a rationale to say that AA's are somehow less homophobic makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 15, 2009 8:47 PM

Rebecca,

I acknowledge in my post that homophobia/tranphobia is an issue in the African-American. I am not clear on where you see me saying anything different.

In addition to Rev. Sharpton, I mentioned Julian Bond, Coretta Scott-King, Rev. Peter Gomes, Rev Michael Dyson and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus as examples of Black leaders who are supportive of LGBT equal rights. You seem to ignore them. I am guessing because it would not support your argument to acknowledge that there are Black leaders who don't fit your idea of Blacks being more homophobic than whites.

Rev. Sharpton has spoken out loudly and clearly in front of Black, white straight and gay audiences. I don't think he would have a problem with what I've said about him in my post.

I am not sure what you issue is with my post and would appreciate if you would enlighten me.

Rebbecca your whiteness and your prejudice is showing. It seems to me that your only point in this thread is to prove that blacks are necessarily homophobic despite being provided of evidence of the contrary. Here is another example for you to consider. It is the stance of the Black Caucus on gay marriage. So tell me again how homophobic blacks are again. I would also point out that homophobia is not race or class specific it goes across the spectrum and when you spit on those that are willing to speak out in the name of equality you are only hurting yourself.

Rebecca,
The facts are it was WHITE people and WHITE evangelicals who funded the campaign for Yes on 8, who gathered the signatures, who put together the army of lawyers arguing against marriage equality over the years, who bankroll the anti-GLBT organizations and who continue to speak forcefully and proudly against it as documented here on Bilerico such as Rev. Pat Robertson, James Hartline, OK Rep. Sally Kern, CA Rep. Pete Knight, former congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, Dr. James Dobson, James Kennedy, et cetera

So explain to me in your infinite wisdom how in Hades that translates to 'Black people are more homophobic than others?' when African-Americans are only 13% of the US population and whites make up 67% of the US population?

Organised homophobia has never been about race.
Period..
It has always been about religion, particularly the heirarchies and leaders of the Catholic, Mormon and Evangelical churches

There have been pro gay Catholics, Mormons, and Evangelicals, of course, but the public leadership of these three groups..well, we can name them all and quote the lies that they have told about us.

Bless Reverend Sharpton for standing up. And Bless you, Reverend Monroe....and this is from a Pagan woman...

telling gays they can't marry is like telling Black and Latino people they should just shack up."

That's a great line. There's too much "Well, what if the government banned black marriage?" floating around out there among lgbt's. The truth is that the Religious Right only banning our marriages, while pushing it as the best thing since sliced bread for everyone else. Just listen to George Will (yeah, I got some Will on the mind) and how he talks about how there's no more racism, just a lack of fatherhood among African Americans and latinos.

Because, of course, racism can't exist if we can scapegoat something else, right?

There needs to be a deeper understanding of why there's so much opposition to same-sex marriage. It's not just about taking away something from people they don't like. It's also about regulating sexual behavior, which is a bit more complicated.

I've always liked Sharpton, too.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 15, 2009 9:31 PM

Sharpton was the only candidate in 2004 who held the other Democrats feet to the fire in the debates. He knew what he was there to accomplish on all fronts. Thanks Michael.

I'm not surprised by Sharpton's comments. Way back when Roseanne Barr had her own talk show, Sharpton appeared and his opininos then were similar to those noted in Michael's article.

I'm not surprised by Sharpton's comments. Way back when Roseanne Barr had her own talk show, Sharpton appeared and his opinions then were similar to those noted in Michael's article.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I like and defend what Al Sharpton has to say. The government needs to stay out of the bedroom and quit playing God. However, I still recall the mess Rev Al caused in the early 90s with the Tawanda Brawley scandle in New York State. Anyone else would probably have gone to jail for years because of it. He, on the other hand, came out smelling like a rose. In my opinion, he intimidates the white community. If I were down to my last dollar, Rev Al is not the guy I would have investing it for me!!

In 1997, I worked on a TV pilot called "The Good News". It was a so-called "black themed" sitcom about an inner city church. The producer, Ed. Weinberger, had social and business ties in LA's black community, having previously produced the series, "Amen". He refused to hire professional extras, insisting on "real church people". Extras were bussed up to Hollywood from churches in Compton and South Central.

In the pilot episode, a young black man has a problem: He wants to bring his (white) boyfriend into the church. While this became the subject of some controversy in the plot of the show, a virtual maelstrom erupted on the set. Arguments broke out amongst members of the crew. When the extras figured out that the fictional church was going to allow this fictional gay couple to worship together, more than half of them walked off the show. Rest assured, none of this was about the boyfriend being white!

I have been involved in LA's TG scene for more than half my life, and am married to a transsexual woman. In my own experience, there are plenty of black men in the clubs chasing trannies; invariably they are on the down-low, and so many have told me it is "impossible" for a black man to come out that I believe them.

Monica, to pretend this prejudice doesn't exist is simply delusional.

But there is hope. As a young (white) choirboy in the 60s, I sang in a myriad of churches. I never felt more welcome than I did in black churches, in fact, the fist time I ever had fun in church, it was African Methodist-Episcopal. There is a LOT of love in those sanctuaries. If there is any hope of changing these opinions, it lies with these people, who share with us the commonality of having been the target of hate and prejudice.

It is not racism to question the rationale here. I'd be just as skeptical no matter what the race of those involved. To bring race into this discussion is a total red herring.

I have been similarly accused for daring to say that Obama's post-election actions do not match his pre-election rhetoric (ala Rick Warren).

This is not about race, it's about credibility.

Once again, I call bullshit.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 16, 2009 11:49 AM

I guess you are saying that anything that does not fit your view that Black people are homophobic and nothing will change that you call "bull----."

That doesn't leave much room for discussion.

I never said that black people, as a group, are homophobic, I said that there is a homophobia problem in the black community, not at all the same thing. Homo/transphobia is not a racial problem, it's a societal problem, prevalent among all racial, ethnic, and religious groups. It is only you, Michael, as well as Monica and others, who are casting this as strictly an attack on the homophobia in the black community.

I'd encourage you to re-read the comments above with an eye toward discovering who brought race into this discussion. It certainly wasn't me.

Your very first comment in this thread was to attack the legitimacy of Sharptons commentary. Since you are not black where the hell do you get off deciding what does and does not represent us?...yet another stunning example of your ignorance and racism. I offered you an example from the black caucus and you choose to be silent. Your only point is that blacks are necessarily homophobic and this is exactly why your ass is being called out.

I am going to tell you straight, it is this kind of racist shit that turns off not only straight black allies (like myself) but black LGBT people. You either erase the experience of black gays and lesbians or you construct the straight ones as always homophobic. If you want to have a group as an ally it should behoove you not to attack them when they are trying to speak up in your defense.

Kid Gloves OFF!

Who the hell do you think you are? You don't know me. You've never met me. You are deciding for yourself with zero evidence that my motivations are racist. You claim racism on my part but you base your accusation on the fact that I'm white.

It's obvious where the real racism is coming from here and it certainly isn't from me.

Your comments are racist because they are decoupled from what Sharpton said.

The point was not about what "all blacks" think.

The racist part is where you can not see what you are doing. It's quite sad.

For the record, I try to be even handed about all of this. I discuss the need to battle homophobia in my community as a black gay man.

BUT, I also call out obvious white gay bigotry against black people.

What your comments lack are nuiance. We can not discuss the complexities in the African-American community without someone such as yourself turning it into an "all blacks are" discussion.

This happened recently with me with another poster regarding what was behind Prop 8. I kept saying that whereas race was a correlation regarding Prop 8, religion was the cause. This poster kept responding that I was trying to say blacks are not homophobic. He did not have the ability to understand the conversation because of all of his baggage.

You suffer the same problem. Having a nuianced coversation about race and more specifically an ally is not a denial of the problems.

Like I told him, your lack of complexity makes the problems worse. If we do not understand that religion is a big factor. if we do not understand that means we should be looking for straight black preachers like Sharpton as allies- then you make solutions impossible.

If you want to sit around telling everyone how bigotted blacks are, that's your life. But it's a waste of time with regard to finding solutions.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 17, 2009 6:33 AM

I’ve liked Al Sharpton, in spite of that Rev. silliness, since I heard him say that he doesn’t care who you sleep with as long as you have a good job to go to when you get up. That kind of eminently sensible working class attitude is a good way to cut across the bigotry of vermin like Obama’s buddies Warren and Donnie McClurkin. Especially as we slide from the Clinton/Bush recession into the Obama depression.

My biggest disappointment with Sharpton is that he hangs around the fringes of the Democrat party. He might change his perspective if he took a serious look at what the folks at Black Agenda Report have to say about Democrats and Obama. You can too if you link here: http://www.blackagendareport.com/ . Instead of supporting right winger fakers like Obama who run the Democrat party they offer a nationalist and leftist approach.

They offer a breath of fresh air after the reeking swamp of Democrat party bigotry, war and welfare for the looters on Wall Street.

It is clear that the Religious Fundamentalists are the ones who are supporting Prop 8 and every anti-gay rights initiative since the 1970s. CNNs exit poll was likely just another way to divide and conquer and throw a smoke screen to distract from the real enemies of LGBT equality and instead blame the black community. It seems calculated that the best way to fractionalize the LGBT community is stir up racism and make us turn on each other because they know it works.

The two African American presidential candidates that ran in 2004, Carol Mosley Braun and Al Sharpton, were both for marriage equality, as is Congressman John Lewis. These folks are not cherry-picked, they are a part of the national black leadership who are working towards marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT people. Sadly the media bias is towards giving air time to the idea that blacks are anti-LGBT, in the same way that they only show communities of faith as anti-gay and never show affirming churches who are for equal marriage rights.

I applaud Al Sharpton for his continued support of marriage equality and find his statements extremely hopeful and inspiring. Thank goodness he is calling the churches on their anti-gay, anti-justice, and I think anti-Christian actions.

Davina Kotulski, Ph.D. Author of Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage http://www.whygaymarriage.com