– Rev. Howard J. Thurman
For many in the African American community relationship recognition for same-sex couples, specifically when talking about marriage, can be a challenging conversation. In 2012, President Barack Obama and the NAACP announced their support for the freedom to marry. The opinions of these and many other leaders in the African American community are rapidly evolving, as is the opinion of the community at large.
In a May 2012 poll jointly commissioned by The Washington Post and ABC News (in the wake of President Obama’s announcement), 59 percent of African Americans reported support for marriage. This was a more than a 20-point jump from the average of 41 percent support that had been reported in polls conducted before the president’s announcement. ((Scott Clement and Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post, “After President Obama’s Announcement, opposition to same-sex marriage hits record low,” May 23, 2012: http://wapo.st/JBdLKa.))
Marriage offers the tools and the security for couples to build a life together and to protect their families. Without marriage, same-sex couples do not receive the same recognition or protections for their families as other couples. ((Freedom to Marry, Inc., Marriage 101: http://bit.ly/1hFJxHm.))
Familial ties are a central part of the African American community. The lack of legal protections for committed same-sex couples conflicts with the core principles of the community.
Emphasize common ground:
- Discuss marriage in a way people understand and experience it, and focus on shared values. Help people connect their desire to make a lifelong commitment to someone they love with same-sex couples who want to do the same. Also, discuss the importance of being the type of person who cares about others and does not want to place same-sex couples at a disadvantage.
- The LGBT community is racially, socio-economically, and geographically diverse. Data from the U.S. Census shows that same-sex couples can be found in every state and in 99.3 percent of all U.S. counties. ((Gary J. Gates and Jason Ost, “The Gay and Lesbian Atlas”, 2004: http://urbn.is/16zSG2K.)) It also shows that 28 percent of people in same-sex relationships identify as people of color. ((Adam P. Romero, Amanda K. Baumle, M.V. Lee Badgett and Gary J. Gates, Census Snapshot: United States, 2007.))
Allowing same-sex couples to marry would not affect religious marriages, institutions or clergy. No religion would be forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriage within the context of their beliefs. Same-sex couples would simply go to City Hall to get a civil marriage license.