Question of the hour: Should blacks feel obligated to support gay rights because of their own history of oppression?
Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and a friend of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., believes that they should and has made a number of public statements on the topic.
“Black people, of all people, should not oppose equality,” Julian Bond said at the National Equality March a few weeks ago, where tens of thousands of gay-rights activists gathered to push for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
But Taylor Harris, a self-described black Christian woman and grad student at Hopkins, strongly disagrees with Mr. Bond. In a column she wrote for Saturday’s Washington Post, she argues that blacks “should not be pawns in any social movement,” and that “stereotypical assumptions based on race are regressive.”
I agree with her that race should not automatically peg you as anything or obligate you to support any particular cause. But I don’t think that Julian Bond is making a “stereotypical assumption based on race” by saying that, as a black man who lived through the Civil Rights Movement, he understands the feeling of having to fight for certain legal rights because of an inherent physical or social characteristic.
According to a recent poll, two-thirds of black Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Harris happens to fall into that two thirds, and she writes,
“Already, being both an American and black is difficult, as W.E.B. DuBois wrote. But so is being an African American and a Christian. Asking those 66 percent of black Protestants to look at religion through the veil of race is not the place even of Martin Luther King Jr.’s comrade.”
So Christianity says it’s wrong to be gay. Christianity also says it’s wrong to lie, cheat, and steal, but liars, cheaters and thieves get married all the time, and I don’t hear any Christians trying to tell them they legally shouldn’t be allowed to.
My point is, it may be wrong to ask black Protestants to “look at religion through the veil of race,” but isn’t it also wrong to look at legal justice through the veil of religion? If Christians, black or otherwise, have a religious problem with gay marriage, then by all means, feel free to not recognize it in your church. But how is it the business of any religious group to decide what legal rights any American should or should not be granted?
Legal marriage adds up to a cluster of economic benefits and visitation rights. Gay couples do not want to march into your local church and declare their union a blessed sacrament sanctioned by Jesus– they just want to be able to have a legally recognized ceremony, a shared last name and a joint bank account.
So, to return to the original question, no, I don’t think Taylor Harris should support gay marriage just because she’s black, but I also don’t think she should oppose gay marriage just because she’s Protestant. We are all “sinners,” to some extent, but unless our sins warrant jail time, that fact should have no bearing on our right to legally wed.