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5 comments | Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I told myself after discussing this issue with my partner Trey last night that I wasn't going to write about it today, but after reading a comment about this issue on another website that I could have easily written myself I had to speak on it...so here goes.

Lately there has been a lively debate on this blog concerning the importance of marriage equality for black gays and lesbians and whether or not we're actually interested in legalizing our relationships. I have to point to a recent post by Jasmyne Cannick where she does an incredibly good job of explaining why she didn't write about the major Supreme Court ruling last week that granted marriage rights to same sex-couples and why she has refused to participate in the fight for marriage equality.

There is this belief that as a gay person of color if you're interested in benefiting from marriage equality or participating in an effort that is clearly spearheaded by white gay organizations then you're somehow out of touch with the black gay community and the "real issues".

I simply reject the idea that as black gay men and women we cannot be concerned or pour our efforts into more than one cause at a time or that gay marriage is simply of interest to only white people. Maybe my position on this issue is a little bias because I'm in a committed relationship and I look forward to the day when my relationship is recognized legally and my family is extended all of the legal protections that are afforded in marriage, versus all of the legal red tape most gay families have to go through in order to protect themselves that in many cases in the end are not enough.

Does the broader gay community have a lot of work to do when it comes to including black gays on important issues? Of course. Is it fair to say that we've felt "pimped out" by the mainstream gay community when they only come to us when they need black faces to support a cause they deem important? Maybe so.

Yet these problems shouldn't dissuade us from openly embracing a civil right that we've been denied for far too long or even participating in the fight for marriage rights despite the collective guilt that is spreading in our community for doing so.

There are hundreds or even thousands of black gay couples who will jump at the chance to be married and just because they're faces aren't seen on the nightly news doesn't mean they don't exist. How many black gay men do you know that are out and willing to say so in front of a camera? If we're ever going to be a driving force in the gay rights movement or change the worlds perception of how gays and lesbians look then we must come out. But that's another topic for another day.

So I'm not buying the idea that gay marriage is not important to the black gay community and I question the motives of anyone who would purport such. Contrary to the growing belief, there are black gay couples who are in committed relationships and who look forward to taking those relationships to the next level. I know because Trey and I are fortunate enough to be one of those couples.

You Might Be Interested In:

It's Legal! (LOLDARIAN)

Damage Control: In the Aftermath of Last Week’s Ruling on Gay Marriage—Gays, the Black Church, and the Mainstream Media (Jasmyne Cannick)

Black Clergy on Same-Sex Marriage (LA Times)

Showbiz Tonight Covers Ellen's Marriage Announcement (Towleroad)


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

One of the reasons that some black gay "spokespeople" say same-sex marriage rights are not important to black gays is that there are more pressing concerns for black gays like, "income disparity" between blacks and whites.

If we want to eliminate some of that income disparity then doesn't it make sense for responsible black gay men to form long term relationships so they can put their TWO incomes TOGETHER and have a better quality of life.

I realize couples don't HAVE to be married to put their incomes together but married couples have all sorts of rights involving property, inheritance, taxes, health insurance, pensions, etc., that unmarried couples don't have.

This gives the LIE to the argument that same-sex marriage is not "our" issue. And please don't anybody post a comment giving all sorts of sorry @ss excuses for why black gay men cannot come together to HELP THEMSELVES AND EACH OTHER. This is really all about common sense and self-preservation.


May 21, 2008 4:13 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

we have to be open to this, it's kind of sad that we can't see marriage as a part of our lives

May 21, 2008 6:26 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Forming families that are recognized BY LAW (marriage), with all the rights thereof, is a sure way to improve one's standard of living. It is regrettable that some black gays have so much animosity towards white gays that they can't or won't see it.

The rationale of some black gays is that I'm mad at white gays for being racist so I'm not going to work for marriage rights. White gays are not losing any sleep over it, I'm sure. They're pursuing their goals, while we watch from the sidelines with our mouths poked out. It's childish, not to mention self-destructive.

Other than accusing them of being racist, what goals do WE have? Do we have a movement? No.

Marriage rights for gays is GOING TO HAPPEN. The tide is turning. It's just a matter of how long it's going to take.

May 22, 2008 1:02 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...


I appreciated the gentleman who's commentary you referenced on Jasmyne's blog. The gentleman he was responding to was doin' a whole lot and clearly wasn't there for dialogue as much as he was there to promote an acrimonious environment.
I posted on the marriage ruling as well. And I think you and I share in our nuanced perspectives. I've pasted the more applicable portion below:

"Some of my black friends are skeptical. One person took the moment to recognize the domestic struggles that some black straight couples face, even as their marriage is recognized. To her the victory was more symbolic. She even went so far as to point out how this move only re-established privilege for those who tend to benefit most from any gay civil rights measures, gay white men. She is a partnered black woman.

"Weddings are for CAKE"

LOL. One of my friends is opposed to marriage in either case. She and I agreed that it is mostly a symbolic gesture. Family and friend get dressed up, eat cake and dance (and generally all one poor saps dime). She stressed that if you're in a committed relationship it shouldn't matter. And jokingly, but truthfully, pointed out that if her and a partner needed to be married in order for her to feel secure in the relationship, then they had "bigger problems."

All have good points. Others of my friends were in awe, some rejoiced openly. I am still milling.

I am both a skeptic and an optimist here. I think I've heard only a smidgen of the important critiques of this moment. I think that we cannot accept this "victory" without being even slightly critical. The marriage movement has been bittersweet for me, as someone who identifies with my many intersecting identities.

As a black person, I can't ignore that there tend to be are more pressing issues for black queer folks. Mental health high on my list of them. As well a person of lesser economic stature, I can't ignore that those of us who don't have the expository income, are often quieted by the raucous roars of those who can put their money where their mouths are. As a young person, the prospect of marriage is both alien and seemingly fantastical. I am not at a place in my life yet where I am ready to be married, but I would like to in the foreseeable future when I have established myself.

Looking through all of those lenses and working among those who are "gay for pay" I also know that we are staggeringly not present in those private meetings where the agenda is decided and the messages are crafted.

Marriage Means Something

But identities aside (or taken together- however one looks at it), as a thinking person I know that this means something. In the same way that Brown v. Board of Education meant something for black folks, and Loving v. Perez meant something for interracial couples, so too does this case mean something for gay folks, of all walks of life.

Having it acknowledged that it is unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be denied equal protection under the law. It takes one step closer to bringing the lives of same-sex individuals off of the margins. I don't really want to be mainstream, but I don't deserve to be discriminated against because who I love and because others have failed to update their archaic perspectives and views.

I think that I am CONTENT. And I feel fortunate to be alive to witness this event. [Hey, that rhymed ;0)]

People like the Alicia Heath-Toby & Saundra Toby-Heath (pictured above) in NJ are still unable to marry in their state. But I think this ruling sends a powerful message, to loving and lasting couples like them, that things can change. They are an important figure in this movement especially when it comes to help ing bring the issue home for black folks."

May 22, 2008 3:40 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I'm both black and same-gender-loving. And in the black community, most of my SGL friends are not interested, in the least bit, in gay marriage rights. Not only do they feel disconnected from and often discriminated against by the larger (and, as they see it, completely white and middle to upper class) gay community, but they also feel like they're facing other, more pressing social and economic issues that they've come to resent anyone (including me) that champions gay marriage.

In my view, it's a strange cocktail of self-hatred, religion, racism and an inability to see the forest for the trees that has formed this point of view and it's been very difficult for me to argue the cause of gay marriage to people who are worried about how they're going to pay their next month's rent or where their next meal is coming from. It's both valid and short-sighted and I'm at a loss at how to confront it.

However, historically, it was these same folks that couldn't care less about the work Malcolm and Martin and Rosa were doing because they, too, had more pressing issues on their minds.

May 22, 2008 5:07 PM


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