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From the National Black Justice Coalition: http://nbjcoalition.org/

- "I see this as a civil rights issue.
That means I support gay civil marriage."

Julian Bond, Civil Rights Leader

- "I believe this is a civil rights issue...My aunt, married a white man in the 1950s when their marriage was illegal in half the states of this country. Indeed, my uncle, had he taken his wife across the wrong state line, would have been guilty of a criminal violation.

It seems to me that if people want to marry a person of a different race that's no different than somebody wanting to marry someone of the same sex."
Carol Moseley Braun, Ambassador

-"It wasn't that long ago that black folks themselves couldn’t be married. We had to jump brooms and do all kind of informal things in slavery to recognize unions that the state failed to recognize, and that the Christian religion failed to acknowledge. In the 20th century as well, when interracial marriages, in some states still banned or looked upon askance. So the thing is is that black people need to be the last people in the world trying to justify theologically any bigotry toward or bias against or even resistance to people who want to be married."
Michael Eric Dyson, Author and Professor

-""I see no problem with gay couples marrying. It's a decision between two people – the government has no business interfering.

I remember when it was against the law for blacks and whites to be married – and that wasn't very long ago. The same people who are fighting gay marriage fought black and white marriage and fought school integration."
Joycelyn Elders, Former Surgeon General

-"I don't understand why the movement to legitimize gay marriage would bother people so much...We have to fight to educate people and transform that visceral response . . . (because) one of the strengths of the black civil rights movement is that it's served as a model for so many other movements. We who have suffered so much should also be the most compassionate."
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor

-"If society waited for majority opinion and legislative action, African-Americans, for example, would still be enduring the indignities of separate but equal accommodation and the other manifestations of legal, social, and political segregation. If the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge is "judicial tyranny," let there be more of it...

To extend the civil right of marriage to homosexuals will neither solve nor complicate the problems already inherent in marriage, but what it will do is permit a whole class of persons, our fellow citizens under the law heretofore irrationally deprived of a civil right, both to benefit from and participate in a valuable yet vulnerable institution which in our changing society needs all the help it can get."
Rev. Peter Gomes, Harvard University Chaplain


The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. called gay marriage a civil rights issue, denouncing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban it.

Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it, Coretta Scott King said Tuesday.

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

"Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla., and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions."
Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Leader


-"It is time to say forthrightly that the government's exclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from civil marriage officially degrades them and their families. It denies them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It denies them numerous legal protections for their families.

This discrimination is wrong. We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I've heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry."
Rep. John Lewis

-"When you talk about the law discriminating, the law granting a privilege here, and a right here and denying it there, that's a civil rights issue. And I can't take that away from anybody."
Rev. Joseph Lowery, Civil Rights Leader"

- The president vowed to 'do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.' He did not explain precisely how gays and lesbians are attacking the sanctity of marriage by wishing to be bound by it.

In fact, same-sex marriages are not likely to have any impact on the sanctity of the president's marriage or my marriage or any other heterosexual's marriage. My wife and I would still be married and so would the president and the first lady--for better or worse, in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part, etc., etc."
Clarence page, Columnist

-"I believe in equal human rights, before the law, for all human beings, and race, gender, disability, class or sexual orientation should not be a factor under the law. Even though we live under the law in a secular democratic society, religious groups must still be able to maintain their spiritual and moral option to either give or withhold a religious or sacred blessing to such unions. However, the government should not have that option. It must affirm the human and legal rights of everyone."
Rev. Al Sharpton, Presidential Candidate

-"The Unitarian Universalist Association has a long-standing and deeply held religious commitment to support full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people, and today's ruling is a significant step forward in guaranteeing that the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are also available to its bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender citizens....Unitarian Universalists today celebrate this ruling, and we again dedicate ourselves to work for justice, grounded in faith, which calls us to support everyone's full humanity, everyone's ability to love, and everyone's value in the world."
Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Church

Other Black Leaders Who Support Marriage Equality

  • Dr. Randall Bailey, Professor of Hebrew Bible, Atlanta
  • The Hon. Willie Brown, Former Mayor of San Francisco
  • Kecia Cunningham, Decatur City Commissioner, Decatur, GA
  • The Rev. James Forbes, Minister, Riverside Church, Harlem
  • Whoopi Goldberg, Actor/Producer, New York
  • Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe Columnist
  • Ron Oden, Mayor of Palm Springs, CA
  • Ken Reeves, City Councilor, Cambridge, MA
  • Byron Rushing, State Representative, Boston, MA
  • Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, South Africa
  • Herb Wesson, California State Assembly Speaker-Emeritus
  • The Rev. Cecil Williams, Minister, Glide Memorial, San Francisco
  • The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago


When you get past selective application of biblical injunctions and pious invocations of moral concern, that intolerance usually boils down to this curious bit of reasoning: Discrimination against gays ought to be allowed because, unlike skin color and culture, homosexuality is something people "choose" and therefore, can un-choose.

So, critics say, society ought not be required to extend civil rights protections to gay people. Rather, gay people ought to be required to change.

The most absurd of the many absurd things about that argument is this: It asks us to believe a man might have his choice of a sexuality that is accepted and celebrated and one that will leave him open to ridicule, estrangement, physical abuse, job and housing discrimination, and the loss of basic legal protections . . . and he would take the second one.

If that's not the dumbest thing I've ever heard, it's definitely in the top 10.

Granted, science has yet to figure out what causes homosexuality. But ultimately, it doesn't really matter, does it? The people who have been flocking to Mayor Newsom's city did not decide to be gay. Anyone who is watching them with that thought in mind is missing the point.

What they have decided is that they are human beings worthy of human dignity. What they have decided is that they are tired of waiting for people to get that.
Leonard Pitts, Jr.


At a crossroads on gay unions
By John Lewis, 10/25/2003
FROM TIME to time, America comes to a crossroads. With confusion and controversy, it's hard to spot that moment. We need cool heads, warm hearts, and America's core principles to cleanse away the distractions.

We are now at such a crossroads over same-sex couples' freedom to marry. It is time to say forthrightly that the government's exclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from civil marriage officially degrades them and their families. It denies them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It denies them numerous legal protections for their families.

This discrimination is wrong. We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I've heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.

Some say let's choose another route and give gay folks some legal rights but call it something other than marriage. We have been down that road before in this country. Separate is not equal. The rights to liberty and happiness belong to each of us and on the same terms, without regard to either skin color or sexual orientation.

Some say they are uncomfortable with the thought of gays and lesbians marrying. But our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans.

Sometimes it takes courts to remind us of these basic principles. In 1948, when I was 8 years old, 30 states had bans on interracial marriage, courts had upheld the bans many times, and 90 percent of the public disapproved of those marriages, saying they were against the definition of marriage, against God's law. But that year, the California Supreme Court became the first court in America to strike down such a ban. Thank goodness some court finally had the courage to say that equal means equal, and others rightly followed, including the US Supreme Court 19 years later.

Some stand on the ground of religion, either demonizing gay people or suggesting that civil marriage is beyond the Constitution. But religious rites and civil rights are two separate entities. What's at stake here is legal marriage, not the freedom of every religion to decide on its own religious views and ceremonies.

I remember the words of John Kennedy when his presidential candidacy was challenged because of his faith: "I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials -- and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all."

Those words ring particularly true today. We hurt our fellow citizens and our community when we deny gay people civil marriage and its protections and responsibilities. Rather than divide and discriminate, let us come together and create one nation. We are all one people. We all live in the American house. We are all the American family. Let us recognize that the gay people living in our house share the same hopes, troubles, and dreams. It's time we treated them as equals, as family.

John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, was one of the original speakers at the 1963 March on Washington and is author of "Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement."
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