The decision by the National Board of the NAACP to endorse same sex marriage has caused several local officers as well as members of the National Board to resign.
The board approved the resolution on May 21—on the heels of President Obama’s endorsement of same sex marriage—despite the fact that the issue wasn’t even on the NAACP’s formal agenda.
“Clearly it’s an evolving conversation,” said Chairwoman Roslyn Brock. It may not have been on a formal agenda, but she believed that it was certainly a relevant issue of civil rights. “Some may never be able to come to terms with the resolution, and that’s fine,” she added.
The NAACP decided to support same sex marriage on the grounds that marriage equality is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Head of the Indiana NAACP Barbara Bolling said that the resolution created debate right away in her state. It even forced one of her branch’s presidents to quit. “It’s an emotional thing, it really is,” Bolling said.
A minister who led the NAACP chapter in Schenectady, N.Y. also resigned, as did National Board member Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr., who has always been the organization’s most prominent and outspoken member when it came to opposing same sex marriage.
“The deviant behavior is not the same thing as being denied the right to vote because of the color of one’s skin,” Ratliff said at the Iowa state house last year after the state passed a law that allowed for same sex marriage. “Gay community: Stop hijacking the civil rights movement,” he said as his audience cheered. Ratliff did tell NPR that he had to pray about staying with the organization or not. He made the decision to resign after acknowledging that the NAACP is based on faith, and according to Ratliff same sex marriage did not fall in line with that faith.
C.C. Carter, a long time member and contributor to the NAACP, agreed that the struggles of the gay community do not compare to the struggles that African Americans faced, but she said that it was wrong for Ratliff to discount the roles of gays and lesbians in the civil rights movements. Bayard Rustin, a gay African American male, was one of the main organizers of the 1963 March on Washington.
It is still unclear if the organization will tackle other issues with sexual orientation besides same sex marriage, but several members did admit that same sex marriage isn’t very high on their priority list.