The NAACP announced on Saturday its board has voted in a favor of resolution endorsing same-sex marriage on the basis that marriage rights for gay couples is consistent with equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded 103 years ago to advocate for the civil rights of black Americans, made the resolution public after the board voted in favor of the measure. The vote tally wasn’t immediately available.
The resolution affirms the NAACP’s commitment to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment while at the same time states a commitment to religious freedom under the First Amendment.
“The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, education, social and economic equality’ of all people,” the resolution states. “Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.”
The endorsement from the Baltimore-based organization comes on the heels of President’s Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage. Within the span of a couple weeks, the nation’s first black president and the country’s premier organization for civil rights of black Americans have come out in favor of same-sex marriage. Other prominent black Americans — actor Will Smith, rapper Jay-Z and House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — have also followed Obama’s lead.
Leaders within the NAACP said support marriage equality is consistent with the organization’s advocacy for civil rights.
Roslyn Brock, board chair of the NAACP, said, “The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people. We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous called civil marriage “a civil right and a matter of civil law.”
“The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people,” Jealous said. “The well-funded right wing organizations who are attempting to split our communities are no friend to civil rights, and they will not succeed.”
Previously, the NAACP had no position on marriage equality. Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the organization, has personally advocated for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, saying the goals of the LGBT rights movement were consistent with the goals of the black civil rights movement.
Even though the NAACP had no official position in favor of marriage equality, the organization had advocated against legislative ban on same-sex marriage. Among these actions included stated opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in North Carolina and California.
LGBT rights groups hailed the NAACP’s announcement in support of marriage equality as a milestone in the pursuit of marriage rights for gay couples.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, was among the LGBT advocates who had high praise for the organization.
“The NAACP has long been the nation’s conscience and champion for an America where all share equally in the promise of liberty and justice for all,” Wolfson said. “Today the NAACP resoundingly affirmed that the freedom to marry is a civil right and family value that belongs to all of us, and that discriminatory barriers to marriage must fall.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the vote is “another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community.”
“It’s time the shameful myth that the African-American community is somehow out of lockstep with the rest of the country on marriage equality is retired — once and for all,” Solmonese said. “The facts and clear momentum toward marriage speak for themselves.”
Black Americans have been seen as among the minorities within the country that are least supportive of marriage rights for gay couples. In November, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 58 percent of black Americans believe same-sex marriage was“unacceptable,” while 35 percent deemed it “acceptable.”
But views may be changing. Following the Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, a Washington Post-ABC News poll published Tuesday found that 54 percent of black Americans had a favorable view of the president’s announcement, while 37 viewed it unfavorably.
Anti-gay groups have accused of trying to exploit racial tensions as part of efforts to oppose same-sex marriage. Internal documents from the National Organization for Marriage, obtained by the Human Rights Campaign and made public in March, reveal the organization tried to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” as part of its strategy.
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies,” one documents reads. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”
Solmonese said the NAACP’s endorsement of same-sex marriage demonstrates that NOM’s strategy to exploit the black community has failed.
“NOM has pursued ugly racial politics seeking to divide people, but what is becoming crystal clear is that its strategy is not working,” Solmonese said. “Americans from all walks of life are uniting to support love, commitment, and stronger families.”
NOM didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the NAACP’s endorsement.
One state with a significant black population could soon be deciding the issue of same-sex marriage. In Maryland, where opponents of same-sex marriage are seeking to place a referendum of the law on the ballot, an estimated 29 percent of the population is black.
Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, praised the NAACP for the endorsing marriage equality and said it demonstrates growing black support for same-sex marriage.
“We could not be more pleased with the NAACP board decision to support marriage equality,” Levin said. “It is yet again reflective of the growing momentum within the African-American community — like all communities — to support stronger families and protect children.”
Among the groups that have been working to preserve the Maryland same-sex marriage law, Levin said, is the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.
“The signs are clear: a majority of all Marylanders — people of all backgrounds — support making families stronger and protecting all children equally under the law,” Levin said.