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African Americans Send Open Letter to Obama on Gay Marriage July 13, 2009

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Famous Gay African Americans

As African Americans search for a new “post-racial” identity, exploring views on the subject of same sex marriage have come to the forefront of an inter-community debate.

A challenge facing black Democrats is that while they are fiscally liberal, their social values can be interpreted as conservative. President Obama’s position on same sex marriage as been rather vague and passive in nature.  Now several leaders in the African American community are sending the first black president an open letter regarding his position on marriage.

I am posting the text of the letter for informational purposes only. While I am a black Republican, I am actually in favor of same sex unions. My opinions do not necessarily reflect  or endorse those stated in the following letter:

July 13, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama
by Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

The following is an excerpt from a letter that will be sent this week to President Obama from leaders in the African-American community. Two events have precipitated the writing of this letter.

1. The President hosted a Stonewall Riot 40th anniversary celebration at the White House, when no such meeting has been afforded to African-American clergy to date.

2. The legal attempt to overthrow the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that has come out of Massachusetts last week.

All too often, both the press and politicians view the African-American community as a monolithic group that will go wherever the cultural winds blow them. This is not true. We want to express our concerns and be heard. The following letter is an attempt to encourage the president to consider our viewpoint on the redefinition of marriage.

Dear President Obama,

“…Although you have voiced support for marriage as defined as a union between one man and one woman, we are concerned that that your campaign promise to changing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will work at cross purposes with your pro-marriage stance.

“We believe that the central domestic problem we face is the disintegration of marriage. One of the organizations we support called Marriage Savers points out that the marriage crisis is comprised of four elements:

1. A lowering of the marriage rate

• The marriage rate has plunged 50% since 1970

2. An increase in divorce

• Half of all new marriages end in divorce

3. A rise in heterosexual cohabitation

• The number of unmarried couples living together has soared 12-fold since 1960

4. A multiplication of unwed births

• Out-of wedlock births jumped from 5.3% to 39.6% from 1960-2007

“These statistics show the fragile nature of the institution of marriage today. Changing the definition of marriage will have many unintended consequences, which will hurt generations to come. If one redefines marriage, then the family is redefined. If the family is redefined then the nature of parenting must also be redefined.

“We are concerned that an attempt to recognize and adjust to one group’s sense of alienation may actually confuse future generations of children about their sexuality and blur lines of responsibility in our families. The very definitions of motherhood and fatherhood may be unnecessarily challenged in years to come.

Same-sex marriage is not a civil right. The laws enacted by Congress during a century of struggle for equal rights for African Americans were intended to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, not on the basis of an individual’s sexual preferences or personal behavior.

Advocates of same-sex marriage want people to think that it can peacefully coexist alongside traditional marriage. But it will create a conflict between people of faith who fervently believe in traditional marriage and the law, which says marriage includes those of the same-sex variety. Those conflicts will always be resolved in favor of same-sex marriage because there can be no ‘conscientious objectors’ to the law.

Mr. President, you say you desire to unify the nation and to change the politics-as-usual status of Washington. We want to believe this statement. As we have looked at both your policies and recent public affirmations, each of us has asked ourselves one question, ‘Is there room enough for people like us in President Obama’s America?’

Many of the people we speak for felt that your disparaging statements during the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot were directed at them. Some of the people with ‘worn out arguments and old attitudes’ are not bigots or homophobes; they are our cultural elders, who are rightfully saying, ‘Don’t tear down a fence until you understand why it’s there.’ Recent studies show that there is a resurgence of hope about marriage among the young people of this generation. Mr. President, let’s keep hope alive…”

We also stated that the California Proposition 8 votes amending the state’s constitution to protect marriage marked the beginning of a new era in American politics. For the first time in recent history, black and Hispanic voters (predominately Christians) voted for President Obama and simultaneously voted against the Democratic power structure on this social issue. In light of this phenomenon occurring simultaneously within the black and Hispanic communities, we respectfully warned the president that hooking his political wagon too closely to the gay marriage bandwagon could precipitously erode public confidence in his administration.

If you agree with our concern about marriage, it’s time for you to start contacting both Republican and Democratic congressmen. Congress is where the battle concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will likely be fought. Importantly, many Republicans are shying away from this important social issue. Conversely, the Democratic Party (generally speaking) seems to be beholding to the gay marriage movement for its financial support in the last election.

Therefore, we must let each congressman know that he can be voted out of office if he moves the wrong way on this issue. Set aside Mondays to email, write or call saying, “We want you to support marriage and to protect DOMA.” Let’s make “Marriage Monday” a national movement.

According to the article, the letter was signed by Niger Innis of the Congress on Racial Equality, Dr. William Owens, Sr. of Concerned African-American Pastors, Bishop Dale Bronner of Word of Faith Family Worship Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Pastor Terry Millender of Victorious Life Church in Alexandria, Virginia, and of course Harry R. Jackson Jr.

Harry Jackson Jr., politically is what I would call an African American  independent. His leanings are conservative on moral issues but he is an advocate for national health care and liberal fiscal policies.  Here is a video clip of Jackson Jr. on The O’Reilly Factor discussing blacks and gay marriage.

You can read more about this letter and Harry R. Jackson Jr. at his blog “The Truth in Black and White”

Autographed Letter Signed,



20 Responses to “African Americans Send Open Letter to Obama on Gay Marriage”

  1. LJSNAustin Says:

    OMG, where to start? First, let me say thank you for the picture of Barbara Jordan, a complete and utter inspiration to me. I had the privilege of seeing Barbara at the Univ. of Texas womens’ basketball games in the 90’s. I regret not going up to her to introduce myself, as I did with Ann Richards. Those two would sit together at the games.

    Let me just respond to this insane batshit:
    ““We are concerned that an attempt to recognize and adjust to one group’s sense of alienation may actually confuse future generations of children about their sexuality and blur lines of responsibility in our families. The very definitions of motherhood and fatherhood may be unnecessarily challenged in years to come.'”

    What if it had been written by a white supremacist group and read:
    ““We are concerned that an attempt to recognize and adjust to African Amerians’ sense of alienation may actually confuse future generations of white children about their race and blur lines of segregation in our society. The very definitions of black and white may be unnecessarily challenged in years to come.”

    Are you kidding me?!?

  2. TheRealKim Says:

    Crying like crazy, but my son just called he is back on American soil and I am being a silly mom. But hearing his voice without static and clear just sent me over the top. Thanks to all of you that helped me through this past year.

  3. kywrite Says:

    Good for you! Glad he’s coming home safe.

  4. kywrite Says:

    Shouldn’t marriage reform start at home — like, maybe by disavowing the part of hip-hop culture that praises having sex with as many women (bitches and hos) as possible? By raising successful married couples up as heroes, and expecting more from men than just child support? by not making a hero of a young man who beat the crap out of his beautiful and famous girlfriend? By Jesse Jackson going around and talking about how stupid he was to have an affair, from which a child resulted?

    Dang, throw stones when your house is not made of glass. I’m not pro-gay marriage (pro-civil unions, for all orientations) but this is just dumb.

    • afrocity Says:

      The pot should stop calling the kettle black (excuse the pun).

      Yes, marriage reform should start at home. The black community has problems when it comes to teenage pregnancy. Most reform is led by and directed towards black males when I feel it should focus on black women. After all we are the one that can actually get pregnant.

      • kywrite Says:

        In retrospect, the letter you quoted from the ministers seems intentionally inflammatory — lots of buzz words and phrases keyed to appeal to conservatives. Okay, I don’t have a political mind and don’t want one — but it seems there may be more to this than meets the eye.

        Anyway, you’re right that it should focus much more on women — even though the women’s rights folks tend to scream that this focus puts the bulk of the responsibility on women. Well, that’s the way it is — we do wind up with the responsibility of the choice, whichever direction that choice goes: abortion, adoption, or singleparenthood.

        But then again, didn’t I see somewhere that black women are finding it harder and harder to find an acceptable spouse, for a variety of reasons? (That’s a very prickly garden gate, there.) There are a number of issues right there that should definitely be addressed with the men, and not the ones that are currently addressed, I think.

  5. WMCB Says:

    I take issue with this part:

    Those conflicts will always be resolved in favor of same-sex marriage because there can be no ‘conscientious objectors’ to the law.

    Um, yes – you can conscientiously object all you want. You don’t have to marry the same sex. And your CHURCH does not have to perform marriage for the same sex if it’s against their beliefs.

    It seems to me that if their concern is low hetero marriage rates, too many single mothers, and a high divorce rate, and if they want the GOVT to address that problem, then they ought out be lobbying to make divorce illegal. (Yeah, I know, that’s ridiculous, but it makes more sense that what they are saying.)

    And if a 50% decline in marriage has been happening, that is NOT because of teh gayz marrying, since, um… they can’t. So what oh what oh what has been causing it up til now? And shouldn’t the focus of your heartfelt concern be THOSE things, and not gay marriage?

    Tell ya what, people, why don’t you get upset and start writing open letters about the negative forces that really ARE causing those problems in the community, instead of making gay people the boogieman for the failings of hetero marriage. Why don’t you write open letters condemning it every time some rap star or sports icon gets up and glorifies the “pimp with female entourage” lifestyle. Because that has a damn sight more effect on views of traditional marriage among black youth than does anything the gays are doing.

  6. Jessica In PA Says:

    I agree with Bishop Harry Jackson:

    “Same-sex marriage is not a civil right”

    Gays mix up gay rights with civil rights and they are not the same. Gays are some of the richest whites people out there.

  7. LJSNAustin Says:

    Jessica, the term “civil rights” is not synonymous with the African-American struggle. Civil rights are CONSTITUTIONAL rights and should apply to all citizens. Gays/lesbians pay taxes just like the rest of the citizenry and yet are denied the right to marry, along with approximately 1,000 other federal rights. Also, what exactly does ‘gays being some of the richest white people out there’ (link, please) have to do with the discussion??

    • Jessica In PA Says:

      Does the constitution give gays the right to marry? Show me where it says that. The civil rights were all about the struggle for blacks to become equal. Gays and women piggybacked on the wave of MLK and blacks during the 60’s. Why is it a right for a man to marry another man?

      • LJSNAustin Says:

        Does the Constitution specifically give ANYONE the right to marry? You show ME. Wow, Jessica, you seem to be both a homophobe and a misogynist. “Gays and women piggybacked on the wave of MLK and blacks during the 60’s”…wow.

      • Jessica In PA Says:

        I did not say it did LJS. I am a woman tell me how I am a misogynist? Who began the civil rights movement? Black people did. Another mistruth is that if you’re against gays marrying you are a homophobe. I have nothing against gays. I do not think they should be allowed to marry.

      • WMCB Says:

        Hmm. It seems Coretta King herself disagrees with you. She believed that gay rights were a civil rights battle, and spoke openly about it.

        I would trust her to know whether Martin’s movement has been “piggybacked on” unjustly.

        To quote Dr. King: “I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”

      • Jessica In PA Says:

        Marriage should be between a man and a woman. Coretta would agree. MLK was a conservative. What gays do behind closed doors is their business, they don’t have to involve others in it. It is about them putting their lifestyle in others faces.

      • kywrite Says:

        I think that Hispanics, Native Americans, and plenty of other groups would also be offended at the idea they piggybacked. All of us, of every color and height, hold civil rights; they are merely a set of laws designed to protect us from the overwhelming power of the government and ensure all citizens are able to participate reasonably equally in both governmental and social activities, like voting or getting a job.

        The Constitution was never designed to lay out every single right we get as citizens; instead, it was written to give us the bare minimum required to protect us from too much government, with all other legislative and regulatory power given to the state.

        This makes it very debatable that marriage is a civil right, except that government should not be able to interfere in an individual’s choice of who to associate with and how. It also makes it very debatable that government should give any of us special privileges to encourage us to associate in specific ways — marry the opposite sex instead of the same one, for instance. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business who you marry, least of all the state’s — but since they’ve poked their nose in it vis a vis taxes etc., well, there it is.

      • WMCB Says:

        Jessica in PA, you can say all day long that “Coretta would agree with you, but the FACT is that she didn’t. Here are her own words on the matter:

        “(AP) — 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.”

      • Jessica In PA Says:

        I stand corrected but by the time Corretta was older she had been corrupted by liberals.

        I still do not care what anyone says gays should not be married. Give em same sex couple benefits I am okay with that but marriage nope.

  8. The challenge with gay rights as civil rights are many:

    Homosexuality is not an identifiable heritable characteristic. In other words, you can’t look at someone and identify them as gay.

    Marriage rites, etc. precede the establishment of the republic and has never been regularly recognized in any society or culture as being anything other being between men and women. The idea of civil society sanctioning as marriage anything other than man + woman is the basis of the huge cultural debate.

    Sanctioning legal marriage rites between persons of the same-sex will necessarily shift marriage from the cultural to the legal sphere (in terms of definition) and will of course have ramifications for the whole of society and raises huge questions of freedom of religion and speech. It is not as simply as asserting, “if you don’t believe in gay marriage your church doesn’t have to perform it.” The passing of legislation does implications for all of society. We cannot say that the liberalization of divorce laws for instance have had no substantial impact on society.

  9. Marcy Says:

    This is certainly an issue which is difficult to discuss without name-calling and personal attacks coming to the forefront.

    I’m old and frankly rather naive by today’s standards, and I confess that back when I first became aware that gays wanted to marry, my first thought was “why?” But after thinking about it and becoming a little more informed on the issue, I learned that gays wish to marry for the same reason heteros do — to form a family unit with all the rights and privileges, both personal and regarding property, available to married couples. And although the argument against gay marriage always seems to be that it will harm hetero marriage, I have yet to hear one concrete example of how that might be true.

    I just see no reason at all, much less a compelling one, for states to deny gays the same rights regarding marriage that anyone else has; and making them settle for having it called “civil unions” is just silly. I see no difference in preventing gays from marrying and the laws that many states had prior to the civil rights movement that prevented people of different races from marrying. Both are wrong.

    So Barbara Jordan was gay? Why am I the last to know everything? I admired her so much and am totally envious of the person who got to see her in person at basketball games. We could certainly use a person of her intellect and integrity today.

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