Fridays the LA Progressive features a comment that was particularly noteworthy. This week we are featuring a comment submitted by Sylvia Moore commenting on “Outing King: The Hijacking of the Dream (and the Civil Rights Conversation),” by Anthony Assadullah Samad.
Here’s Sylvia’s comment:
I have to agree with MLM’s impassioned post, and respectfully disagree with Dr. Samad’s opinion piece. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream doesn’t just belong to any one particular group. It belongs to all of us. The civil rights struggle is a human rights struggle, and the LGBT community should be a part of it. The Founding Fathers of our country, who were wealthy white slave owners, never intended to include blacks and women in their vision of an equal society under the law when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But that didn’t stop people of color and women from using the Founding Fathers’ own words to fight for those same rights enjoyed by white male propertyowners.
As an African-American myself, I understand why many in the black community – including Dr. Samad – feel protective of Dr. King’s legacy. The church played an important role in the civil rights struggle. Today, the church still plays a prominent role in black social and political life. But what those in the black community who oppose gay marriage must understand is that this is a secular nation that includes people of diverse faiths and those, like myself, with no faith at all. Christianity and the Bible are not, and should not, be the basis of our legal code. Our laws are secular, and no one has the right to impose their religious beliefs on others who don’t share those beliefs. That includes how we sanction relationships. Marriage is more than an exchange of vows; it’s a legal contract that governs property rights, visitation rights, custodial rights and so on.
The fact is – the word “marriage” can no longer be seen in purely religious terms. The church can no longer lay claim to the word because our secular laws use the word. Most people use “marriage” in a non-religious sense; saying “we’re going to the justice of the peace to get civil-unioned” is pretty awkward. And just because something is a “tradition” to one group of people doesn’t mean that “tradition” can’t be changed when public opinion changes. The idea of marriage and who can participate in it is changing – younger Americans, no matter what their religious affiliation, support gay marriage much more than their parents’ generation.
It may be true, as Dr. Samad says, that black gays and lesbians are not as ostracized by their friends and families. But their identity as gay and lesbian, and their relationships, are still largely not accepted within the black community. That is still a form of homophobia. And we can’t ignore the fact that there is rampant homophobia in hip-hop culture. There is much discomfort within the black community towards talking about homosexuality and homophobia, just as there is much discomfort within the white community towards talking about racism. That discomfort stems not just from religious upbringing, which discourages frank talk about sex in general, but also sensitivity over images of Black sexuality and the meaning of Black masculinity. But that discomfort has to be overcome if there is going to be any meaningful dialogue between the black and LGBT communities. Likewise, the LGBT community must be sensitive to the unique challenges blacks have had to face and continue to face in this society if they want to have any hope of winning them over on the issue of gay marriage.