I had no intention of addressing last week’s
California Supreme Court 4-3 ruling, which held that same-sex
couples have a constitutional right to marry. I politely declined
several media interviews regarding the decision and choose to
post nothing on my site about it.
Now, for the record, I am a lesbian. So obviously,
I agree with the ruling.
However, I disassociated myself from the movement
sometime ago when it became clear and apparent that the groups
here in California and in Washington, leading the charge, were
more concerned with obtaining gay marriage than any other issue
affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. They
were more concerned with reciting quotes from Black civil
rights leaders and groundbreaking court cases and pimping out
photos of Black gay and lesbian couples on their websites than
hearing the concerns of Black same-gender loving people - concerns
that most certainly extend into the gay
community as much as they do the Black community.
Having failed for the most part at infiltrating
the Black gay community and getting us to act as surrogates
to deliver their message of marriage over everything else in
our community, today these groups remain completely oblivious.
Chalk it up to ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance, because their
idea of coalition building is telling us what to do and expecting
us to go along with it, no questions asked, and arrogance for
having the audacity to think that we would.
the ruling, these same groups have been busy invading my inbox
with emails about why I need to give them my money so that they
can fight for my right to marry. I have yet to receive an email
from these same groups about the upcoming California
ballot initiative that would do away with rent control. I haven’t
received an email about how the gay community in California
needs to work together to help fight the Governor’s $144.4-billion
spending plan that includes steep cuts in welfare and healthcare,
programs that many lesbian and gay families rely on to make
it through. You know, those bread and butter issues that many
Black gays will tell you matter more than or as much as the
Supreme Court’s ruling.
So when the ruling came down I just sat back
and watched for what I knew was going to happen and for what
The L.A. Gay and Lesbian
Center’s Lorri Jean’s mug was plastered
across my television set along with reps from the usual suspects,
the National Center
for Lesbian Rights and Equality California. Scenes of glee throughout
the streets of West Hollywood as mostly white gays celebrated in true typical WEHO
style and lesbian talk show host Ellen Degeneres and her partner
actress Portia de Rossi announced plans to get married.
The Los Angeles Times gave the ruling
prime coverage in the A section the following day. Coverage
that was void of any color. To television news’ credit, while
they didn’t feature any gays of color, they did cut to a group
of protesters against gay marriage that prominently featured
African-Americans. More recently, the Los Angeles Times
has published an article featuring liberal and conservative
voices from congregations throughout Southern
California on whether or not they support gay marriage.
It wasn’t until I got to the end of the article,
which is titled, “Coming
to grips with same-sex marriage ruling,” that I was finally
moved enough to write about last week’s ruling.
And I quote:
I want to put this in perspective for you. Out
of all the mainstream media coverage in L.A.
from last week’s ruling on gay marriage, with the exception
of the anti-gay protesters, there were no Black faces or voices.
But when the conversation turned to the church…you
get the picture.
Maybe had there been some sort of balance in
the recent media blitz over the ruling, a balance that illustrated
the melting pot we’re always claiming to be, perhaps I wouldn’t
be so annoyed with Pastor Epps’ quote in the Times.
quote isn’t alarming. After all, he was asked his thoughts and
he gave them. What bothers me is that almost never is the voice
of reason on gay issues an African-American. If I didn’t know
any better, I’d think there wasn’t a Black church in the country
that supported equal rights for lesbians and gays.
With the gay groups, I know that their reasons
for exclusion has to do more with the fact that unless they
can use Black gays to carry their message to the larger Black
community, we’re for the most part no good to them, except for
the occasional website profile, mailer, or grant application.
With the mainstream media, there seems to be
no real interest in thinking outside the box that has been drawn
for them by said gay groups. That is why we see the same faces
and hear the same voices on all things gay. The same organizations
are looked to as the authoritative representation of the gay
community similar to the way that Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev.
Jesse Jackson are looked to when Blacks are upset.
And even though Los Angeles is home to a plethora
of respected Black clergy that is affirming of lesbians and
gays, including Agape’s Rev. Michael Beckwith, Rev. Eric Lee
of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los
Angeles, and civil rights icon Rev. James Lawson, those voices
are almost never chosen to represent the voice of reason and
African-Americans on gay issues. No, we’ve got to be portrayed
as being negative, helping to fuel the notion that Blacks are
Had the Times reporters gone back a few
years in their archives, they would have come across an article
written by their now retired colleague, reporter Gayle Pollard-Terry
titled, “A Shout Rings Out,” which profiled Black gay Christians
and drew national attention. The article featured Unity Fellowship
Church Movement, a 26 year-old Black church headquartered in
Los Angeles, but with
chapters across the nation. Unity was founded by the Rev. Carl
Bean for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender African-Americans.
the list of prominent Black clergy supporting the right of lesbians
and gays to marry has grown exponentially over past several
years to include among others: Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. William
Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Church, Rev. Peter
Gomes, Harvard University Chaplain, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson,
his wife Rev. Marcia Dyson, and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former
pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.
Yes, that’s right, the pastor whose comments
were inaccurately portrayed by the media as being unpatriotic
and then used by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s
opponents to distract voters, is and has been a supporter for
equal rights of lesbian and gay couples. That somehow was missed
in all of the criticism being hurled at Wright.
In 2004, I will never forget receiving an email
from Dr. Wright praising my commentary “Pastor Thou Art Loose”
and asking for permission to reprint it in Trinity’s weekly
Sunday bulletin. I remember speaking to him briefly about it
on the phone and thanking him for taking the time to read it
and offering to share it with his congregation. I received countless
emails from various members of Trinity after it was published
in their bulletin, also praising my commentary, giving me hope
that all Blacks are not homophobic.
Last week’s ruling by the California Supreme
Court was unprecedented and has set the stage for another national
dialogue on equal rights for lesbians and gays, a dialogue that
will eventually extend to the 2008 presidential campaign. I
fully expect a repeat of 2004 that saw the Republican Party
use the issue of gay marriage to convince Blacks to vote against
their best interests. After all, that’s what Republicans do
best - use the Bible to invoke mass hysteria at the polls. Hopefully
this go round, the fact that we’re in a recession and a never-ending
war, coupled with a Black Democratic nominee and a little common
sense, Blacks won’t be so easily tricked into voting against
their best economic interests AGAIN, with bias media reports
portraying all gays to be white and all Blacks to be homophobic.
Jasmyne Cannick, is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop
culture, race, class, and politics as it relates to the African-American
community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’
she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the
World. Click here
to contact Ms. Cannick.