When the NAACP, the nation’s most prominent black community and civil rights group, voted yesterday to endorse same-sex marriage, it was a gift to President Obama—a move that provides substantial cover to the president.
Now whenever he is taking hits from the flank, he can pull the NAACP endorsement from his pocket, like a glowing letter of reference from an influential previous employer. A stamp of approval from the NAACP is about as close as the president could get to an official endorsement from black America.
“We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” said the statement issued by the group’s board of director after its quarterly board meeting in Miami. All but two of the 64-member board, which includes more than a dozen clergy, voted in favor of the resolution.
After Obama announced last week in an ABC interview with Robin Roberts that he supported gay marriage, the issue has been a lightning rod for opinion and conjecture on both sides of the political aisle. But because African Americans have been such solid supporters of the president and gay marriage is so thoroughly opposed by so many black clergy members, the media has focused a great deal of attention on whether the issue could hurt Obama in the November election. Most of the black ministers who have been willing to speak out on the issue said that while they oppose Obama’s position, they still support his re-election. That view is also reflected in most black church congregations, where the president has overwhelming support.
But some religious leaders have been vocal in their condemnation of Obama. For instance, the Tennessee-based Coalition of African American Pastors, led by Rev. William Owens, attacked the president’s position—particularly a comparison of gay rights to the civil rights that blacks fought and died for.
“For activists, politicians and now the highest office in the nation to link sexual behavior God calls sin to the righteous cause Martin Luther King gave his life for is abominable in and of itself,” the coalition said in a statement. “There is no civil right to do what God calls wrong.”
But Obama has had passionate defenders among the ministry, too, such as Rev. Otis Moss III, who four years ago succeeded the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright as pastor of Obama’s old church in Chicago, Trinity United Church of Christ. Moss read a letter from the pulpit last Sunday expressing his disgust with ministers who were using their religious convictions as a reason to work against the president’s re-election.
“Gay and lesbian citizens did not cause the economic crash, foreclosures and attack upon health care,” Moss said. “Poor underfunded schools were not created because people desire equal protection under the law. We have much work to do as a community, and to claim the president of the United States must hold your theological position is absurd. He is president of the United States of America not the president of the Baptist convention or bishop of the sanctified or holiness church. He is called to protect the rights of Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, gay and straight, black and white, atheist and agnostic.”