Newspaper article

NAACP President: Continue 20th Century Trend of Expanding Rights

Newspaper article

NAACP President: Continue 20th Century Trend of Expanding Rights

Article excerpt

Flanked by two dozen leaders of the Twin Cities African-American community, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous Monday said black Minnesotans have a number of reasons to vote down the proposal to amend the state's constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.

"The notion that the state would actually enshrine discrimination into the Constitution should send a shiver down every spine," he said. "We as a community of color have a vested interest in continuing the trend of the 20th century of expanding rights."

Jealous' parents' interracial marriage took place in 1966, a year before Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-miscegenation laws. They were married in Washington, D.C., and were accompanied home to Maryland by a procession of cars whose headlights were lit, he said.

Plenty of people were outspoken in their opposition to mixed- race marriages at the time, Jealous said, "but I have not met one person since who is proud they supported anti-miscegenation laws."

Jealous was joined by Jeff Martin, president of the NAACP's St. Paul chapter; African American Leadership Forum Director Chris Stewart; Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn.; and Sarah Walker of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and a board member of the vote-no coalition that organized the press conference, Minnesotans United for All Families.

Minnesota law already prevents gays and lesbians from marrying, Jealous continued. If the amendment is defeated, state-sanctioned same-sex marriages would not begin the day after the election.

'We must stand in solidarity'

"What changes the next day?" he asked a small gathering at a press conference at St. Paul's Hallie Q. Brown Community Center. "You've just changed the trend in this state from a century of using the Constitution to expand rights to one of using the constitution to restrict rights."

Martin and Stewart agreed. "From the NAACP perspective, it is offensive," Martin said. "If we start limiting civil rights in general, then guess who's on the agenda next?"

"We can't be silent in this without being complicit in this assault on our families," Stewart added.

"There are many LGBT people in the African-American community," Walker noted. "We must stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters for justice and to be able to marry and form a family with who they want."

'There's a trend in this nationally'

For the same reasons, Jealous said he hoped African-Americans would also reject the proposed voting amendment, which he said would make it much more difficult for minorities to vote. "There's a trend is this nationally," he said. "Our people are smart enough to see through it."

Voting no would send a signal to the groups working to pass amendments around the country that their "much bigger strategy of splitting the black voting block" to damage Barack Obama's re- election effort won't work, Jealous said.

Internal documents from the national group that has coordinated anti-gay-marriage campaigns throughout the country, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), were unsealed earlier this year as part of a federal lawsuit in Maine. The memos outline a broad political strategy to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks," "expose [Barack] Obama as a social radical" and even to ensure that the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo stays open. …

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