A state constitutional marriage amendment designed to motivate conservative voters and help Virginia Sen. George Allen’s re-election campaign appears to be backfiring, at least among black voters.
The Republican senator probably will benefit from evangelical Christians voting for the amendment. But, the amendment also will drive turnout among the state’s black voters, many of whom are questioning whether Mr. Allen is racially insensitive and deserves a second term.
Virginia’s black voters support the amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, by more than 60 percent, according to most polls. They also overwhelmingly favor Mr. Allen’s Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr.
The black vote is even more crucial this year than most, as Mr. Allen and Mr. Webb are nearly tied in statewide polls leading up to Tuesday’s election.
“My people don’t see it as a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. They see it as a societal issue,” said the Rev. Milton R. Blount, pastor of the predominantly black New Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va.
I, of course, find it ironic and sad.
What can I write about black homophobia that I haven’t written already? Rev. Blount probably wouldn’t count me or any other black gay person among “his people,” any more than would Wellington Boone, Willie Wilson, Alfred Owens, Eddie Long, T.D. Jakes, or Gregory Daniels. So why should I consider him (or them) “my people”? If it weren’t for people like Julian Bond and Al Sharpton, I might honestly give up on black people altogether.
Why don’t we have more black leaders like Julian Bond speaking out against anti-gay marriage amendments like the one in Virginia?
In a speech given before students and members of the University community yesterday evening, History Prof. and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond urged members of the community to vote “no” on the Marshall-Newman marriage amendment appearing on Virginia’s ballot next week.
“I’d always thought Virginia was for lovers, not against them,” Bond said. “We believe it is always wrong to use a constitution to single out one group for discrimination.”
Bond delivered the keynote speech for “Virginia is for Lovers?”, the first event to be cosponsored by the Office of African-American Affairs and the LGBT Resource Center of the Office of Student Life.
“I thought it was fantastic,” said Joy Pugh, coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center. “For the first event between the two groups, you can’t have a better speaker than Julian Bond.”
Why don’t we have more black leaders like Al Sharpton calling out the religious right for exploiting issues like same-sex marriage at the expense of social justice? (Why don’t we have more black leaders who speak in terms of justice instead of “just us”?)
The Rev. Al Sharpton criticized the Christian right Tuesday for focusing too much political discussion on abortion and same-sex marriage and said black churches must talk about fighting poverty, equal access to education and other social justice issues.
With comedian/activist Dick Gregory at his side, Sharpton also condemned Indiana’s new voter ID law requiring people to present government-issued identification at the polls.
“We have been inundated in the faith community with bedroom sexual morality issues and not dealing with the broader moral issues of poverty, of injustice and of health care,” Sharpton said at a news conference amid a two-day meeting of talks and revivals.
“We can no longer be misused by some in the Christian right that will not deal with the broader issue of injustice and fairness and inequity in our society,” the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said.
Because if Bond or Sharpton stood up in a black church today and said the same things above, they’d be received about the same way Keith Boykin was as Central State University. They’d probably be heckled and hooted right out of the building, because so many black churches are steeped in an a intensely literal and insistently uncritical approach to scripture, that’s nearly impenetrable to reason. Sharpton and Bond are actually “old school,” cut from the same cloth as Coretta.
What we have that passes as leadership today actually comes from the tepid, shallow, less-than-healing waters flowing from too many black churches, offered as sorry substitute for the theology that held that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Instead standing and speaking up with Bond and Sharpton, the best we can get is a bunch of black pastors angry that they didn’t get their cut of that good faith-based government scratch. They sound more less like preachers and more like angry pimps (think “Bitch bettah have my money“) who are upset to find that they’ve actually been taken for marks. (Or mark-ass bitches. Take your pick.)
It’s gotten to the point of making me bitter and cynical. Yesterday, while discussing with someone the nearly inevitable reality that Adrian Fenty, the Democratic nominee for D.C. Mayor, will win the office, I heard myself explain how D.C.’s Republicans could run a more competitive race, or at least how I would do it.
They have one major thing going for them and one thing they need to do to exploit it. D.C. has a sizable African American population, some of whom spend their Sundays saying Amen to homophobic pastors like Willie Wilson and Alfred Owens. If I were running a Republican mayoral campaign in D.C. the first thing I would do is fight to get an anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot in the District. Once that was successful, I would send my candidate to nearly every black church in the District (with the exception of a few gay or gay-friendly black churches) to speak in support of it.
That would go a long way towards victory on election day, or at least get the Republican candidate closer to victory than any other Republican’s ever gotten.
I’d almost guarantee that it would work for them. And it might work elsewhere, for Democrats too.