In the USA, conservative blacks are objecting to recent comparisons between the gay marriage and civil rights movements, arguing that sexual orientation is a choice. Links between the two struggles were made when the Massachusetts highest court ruled that the state’s constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry. The court cited landmark laws that overturned bans on interracial marriage.
The Rev. Talbert Swan II said the two struggles are not similar because blacks were lynched, denied property rights and declared inhuman. “Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle,” he said. “I could not choose the colour of my skin. … For me to ride down the street and get profiled just because of my skin colour is something a homosexual will never go through.” A poll indicated 60% of blacks opposed gay marriage.
Michael Adams, an attorney with a gay advocacy legal group, said polls show blacks support gays in other areas, such as workplace equality. Strong conservative religious values that predominate in the black community may explain the division. There are key differences in the two movements, including slavery and forced segregation, which gays never experienced. But the groups have seen similar discrimination based on deeply held prejudices.
Alvin Williams, president and CEO of the conservative Black America’s Political Action Committee, said the gay marriage issue looks like an equal rights issue at first, but becomes a “special rights” issue after closer examination because it’s about behaviour, not ethnicity.
However, in the Democratic presidential debate, black candidates Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton declared support for gay marriage. Both compared it to past discrimination against blacks. The Rev. William Sinkford, a black man who is president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, said the struggle for gay civil rights is this generation’s great challenge, just as equality for blacks was the last generation’s. “I think there’s very little to be gained by trying to create a hierarchy of oppression,” he said. Emory College professor David Garrow said the legal histories of the two movements have abundant parallels, including the arguments that marriage between the races and same sexes is unnatural and against God’s law.