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.