Proposition 8 Is Not About Black Homophobia

black-lesgians.gifRev. Irene Monroe —

Last week we saw democracy work with the election of Barack Obama as our country’s first African American president. My enslaved ancestors who built the White House could have never imagined that one of their progenies would one day occupy it.

But we also saw last week on the same day how democracy didn’t work for its LGBTQ citizens with the passing of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution eliminating marriage equality for same-sex couples after the California Supreme Court ruled in May that a “separate and unequal” system of domestic partnership for same-sex couples is not only blatantly discriminatory but it is also unconstitutional.

While California’s gay community places blame on African Americans for the passing of Proposition 8, we were one of many interest groups backing the amendment. And although we are just 6.2 percent of the state’s overall population, we can’t wash our hands clean by saying other interest groups are just as culpable.

Seven out of ten of us pulled a lever to deny another minority groups their civil rights. And while the pollsters and pundits say that religion was our reason, as African American we have always discarded damning and damaging statements and scriptures about us in the name of religion like Biblical passages that either cursed all people of African ancestry (The Curse of Ham, Genesis 9:18-27) or advocated slavery (Ephesians 6:5-8).

Many Proportion 8 supporters voted “yes” believing the future traditional family was at stake. But when society narrowly defines marriage as solely the union between a man and a woman, it ignores the constant changing configuration of today’s family units. And the African American community knows this best. While African American ministers will argue for the tradtional nuclear family the stresses and strains of racism has and contnues to thwart the possiblity. So we created our own family structures.

Therefore, multiple family structures presented by same-sex marriages should not pose a threat to the African-American community because they are what have sustained, saved, and are still saving African-American families. A grandmother or an aunt and uncle — straight or gay — raising us in their loving home have anchored our families through the centuries. And these multiple family structures, which we have had to devise as a model of resistance and liberation, have always, by example, shown the rest of society what really constitutes family- its spiritual content and not is physical compostion.

Unfortunately, civil rights struggles in this country have primarily been understood, reported on, and advocated within the context of African American struggles.

The present-day contentious debate between black and queer communities concerning what constitutes a legitimate civil rights issue  and which group owns the right to use the term is both fueled and ignored by systemic efforts by our government that deliberately pits both groups against each other rather than upholding the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that affords each of these marginal groups their inalienable rights.

While it is true that the white LGBTQ community needs to work on its racism, white privilege, and single-issue platform that thwart all efforts for coalition building with both straight and queer communities of color, the African-American community needs to work on its homophobia.

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The blame of the passing of Proposition 8 should not be placed on the shoulders of blacks, Latinos, or even religion, but rather the blame should rightly be placed on the shoulders of our government. To have framed our civil rights as a ballot question for a popular vote was both wrong-hearted and wrong-headed. If my enslaved ancestors had waited for their slaveholders to free them predicated on a ballot vote we all wouldn’t be living in the America we know today. And Barack Obama would not be our president-elect.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal.

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Comments

  1. Liberal Sista says

    I found the results of Prop 8 to be morbidly disgusting! Although I am a Black heterosexual female, nevertheless I have always supported gay marriages, same-sex adoptions, as well as upholding the Supreme Court decision of Roe V Wade. Unfortunately, Christianity has a played a vital role in many Black communities. Many African Americans are fiscally liberal, but socially conservative. What went wrong with Prop 8 and the Black vote? A.S.S.U.M.P.T.I.O.N and BAD MARKETING! There is a smaller percentage of Blacks living in California than any other ethnicity group. There are more faith-based televised sermons advertised on BET, than MTV or VH1. There were no grassroots campaign pushing the opposition agenda of Prop 8 in Black and Hispanic urban/suburban areas. Kanye West, a rapper who has openly expressed his support for gay marriages would have been a great spokesperson for the Black community. Politics is a game of chess, and Prop 8 is just one of the 16 pieces! The Mormans understood their religious constituents. If you want to forward a faith based agenda among minorities, then target the Black churches. President Bush did this during his Presidential campaign. Trying to push Prop 8 right after the Presidential victory of President Obama {without gaining a favorable amount of attention to this subject from Blacks and Hispanics} was infantile. You want Prop 8 eradicated? Then reach out to the Black community. It’s NEVER too late! I still support same sex marriages.

  2. says

    Kukala, your vote in support of denying other citizens equal rights is actually not in support of traditional marriage; it is in support of an institutionalized financial and social system that should be available to every American family. “Traditional marriage” for most of this country’s history did not allow whites and blacks to marry, with the bible being used to justify miscegeny even during the black civil rights movement. Maybe you don’t personally hate gays, but what you’re missing is the connection between racism and homophobia. The gay rights movement is not pitting gays against AAs, opponents to equality are simply using a “divide and conquer” strategy that pits various minorities against each other. In fact, those of us who are black homosexuals experience double discrimination.

    Gays are not “bunching our civil rights together,” the U.S. Constitution does it. In reality, the word marriage is not what gays need. They need the equal rights that are constitutionally guaranteed to all Americans, but systematically denied to them. Did you know that if two women are in a committed relationship and are raising children and one of them owns their home and adds the other parent to the deed to the property, they have to pay extra taxes on the equity in the property? Straight parents that are legally married are not penalized by the IRS. If the gay family doesn’t put both names on the deed before one dies, the remaining parent is taxed on the property inherited, even if she/he has paid for that home for years. The will can be contested and the family could lose their home altogether.

    Here’s another situation – if one parent belongs to a retirement system and dies, the family can only receive a portion of the retirement package as beneficiaries, sometimes only a fifth of it’s full value, and then they’re taxed on it because it’s an inheritance, not a retirement. Straight marital partners get the full retirement package. That could mean tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars difference, just because they have the legal right to marry. Chances are the kids of gay parents are heterosexual, or will be when they grow up (90% of us are straight, apparently). Why is our government discriminating against the kids of gay parents? And these two examples are just property and retirement packages. When you start adding up the rest of the thousand or so other “rights” of marriage, you’ll see that this is really a discussion about civil rights and equality, not your version of what marriage should be or the supposed biblical limitations on who should be allowed to be in domestic relationships.

    You think they jumped the gun by pushing for marriage equality? I worked in the black civil rights movement, and we were told the same thing – quit pushing for change before society is ready for it. Luckily, our brave leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. ignored that advice, and because so many white Americans stood by our AA leaders, including President Eisenhower with the 1957 Civil Rights Act and John and Robert Kennedy, our government initiated systematic change that brought society forward instead of leaving us deadlocked on race issues. Don’t forget, racists routinely “voted their hearts and minds” on legislation that hurt minorities throughout our country’s history, and they used the bible to justify it! That doesn’t make their cruelty any more acceptable, and straight people voting away the rights of gays is just as mean spirited. Worse, it’s against what our country stands for; it’s tyranny of the majority just like institutionalized racism. Gays will eventually get equality, because our Constitution is stronger than the bigots that strive to ignore it. But when polls show 70% of AAs voting for a discriminatory measure like Prop 8, it’s clear we have a long way to go to achieve the American dream of equality for all.

    I hope you take this opportunity to examine the parallels between racism and homophobia, because the proponents of these anti-gay, anti-family, anti-American initiatives are counting on people like you not realizing that “traditional marriage” is a misnomer. If you want a traditional marriage, go have one, gay families won’t get in your way or “hurt your marriage.” But don’t forget that traditional marriage for most of written history meant your husband can divorce you even though you can’t divorce him. And any property you get from your father will be owned by your husband. And don’t forget the anti-miscegeny laws. Is that what you want? Or do you want the “modern” version of marriage, as long as it excludes gays?

    It took white people standing side by side with our black activists demanding racial equality in America. Now it’s time for straight America to stand up for our oppressed gay and lesbian citizens. We start by recognizing that straight marriage isn’t hurt by gay citizens appealing for equality. Marriage is for people who have assumed legal and financial responsibility for their partner and/or children. Gays and lesbians have already done that – they’ve taken the responsibility for their families and courts routinely hold them to those responsibilities. All they need are the rights that go with that responsibility. The question is, how long will we let the Religious Right drag us through this conflict before we come to a sensible solution? Please go here to see one proposal: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/13/18134/799/458/660602

    In Obama’s own words, ““We are not a gay America or a straight America, we are all Americans…” and “…we rise and fall as one nation.”

  3. Kukala says

    Maybe Am I missing something here. My vote to support prop 8 does not mean that I hate the gay community or that I have something against them. That vote was to preserve what I believe marriage to be and my rights as a born female black woman in that institution. I resent the assumption that the media manipulates my thinking, I am intelligent enough to do thourough research before voting. It has been the LBTGQ that attempts to put us against each other, when they bunch our civil rights together as one. An orange is a fruit, an apple is also a fruit but they are not the same.
    For many AfricanAmericans this goes deep into their religious and moral values not our civil rights. Who are the LBTGQ to question those values by comparing them to the “fair weather religous folks”. They speak of discrimination but are they not the ones judging and assuming that we hate them because we do not agree with them? I have read and heard horrible things said about the bible, religions and its followers because they supported this proposition. It was from religion that the definition of marriage came from. I do not understand. Is it that word marriage that they need to define what they have? Why would they want that word to define their union when it comes from a place they believe has no tolerance for them. By law Gay and Lesbians have as many rights and in some cases more explicit laws to cover their union than I as a woman have in a marriage.
    I find that the statements and acusations being made to make the point do not have much weight. The blame I place on the law makers that signed the bill, they had no right to change the definition of a word in the constitution that would affect the lives of so many.
    They knew it was to be voted on in the upcoming election but they jumped the gun and signed it into effect anyway. The People of the state California did not like it and voted their mind and heart on it.

    • D Gordon says

      This is perhaps one of the most offensive statements I have ever read. Particularly after such a thoughtful article. This person is the reason such wrong opinions are held in the LGBT community. She says her “morals” give her the right to discriminate. So if the KKK say that as well, and use the Bible to back it up, that is okay?

      For a woman so defined by the color of her skin to believe in separate but equal for other Americans . . . well it is just too much and a true reminder of what ignorance can do. But someone who does not educate themselves, that relies on her ignorance, there is nothing one can do.

      It is more important to educate those that are truly open, free people, and not those still desiring the chains that hold them back.

      Shame on you. You are a bigot.

  4. david says

    This is not about who, it is about what. The what is discrimination embraced by Californians.

    The only ‘who’ that matters is ‘who’s next?’.

  5. Jeremy says

    Thank you for this wonderful article.

    As a gay white male I apologize for the anger and backlash that the gay community has shown against the African American community.

    I think you bring up a powerful point that the institution has pitted all minorities against one another. Instead of seeing it as an us versus them, we need to stand together as one. We will all continue to be second class citizens until the day that the gay community can reach out to the African American community and ask for help (and vice versa).

    Thank you.

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