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Posted at 10:14 AM ET, 03/ 8/2011

Russell Simmons, gay marriage and Maryland

By Jonathan Capehart

Support for marriage equality among African Americans isn't confined to the old foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), NAACP chairman Julian Bond and the Rev. Al Sharpton got some pop-culture reinforcement yesterday from music mogul Russell Simmons.

Russell proclaims himself to be "a longtime supporter of marriage equality." And he urges viewers to "Make your voice heard. Stand up now for marriage equality."

Sure, Simmons is lending his voice to the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the Empire State. But maybe, just maybe, his voice and that of Whoopi Goldberg and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, will carry some weight with African Americans in Maryland. I'm thinking particularly of those in the General Assembly slated to vote on a marriage equality bill this week. Some of them are relying on backward arguments to oppose the measure or irrational fears of the impact it would have on black families. If seeing a successful black man such as Simmons express clear support for gay men and lesbians in committed loving relationship having the freedom to marry doesn't sway them, then maybe Colbert King will.

In his Friday post -- "Same-sex marriage isn't the threat to African American families" -- King expresses bewilderment at "the concentration of conservative black pastors on gay marriage when the real and present danger is the decline of marriage among African Americans." After laying out some damning statistics, King delivers this blunt assessment.

Gay, lesbian and transgender people and their desire to get married have nothing to do with the decline of marriage and family in the African American community. What ails us comes from within and from societal conditions unrelated to same-sex marriage. If anyone should know that, it's the black preacher.

Can I get an 'Amen!'?

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 8, 2011; 10:14 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Posted by: truthwillout | March 8, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse


I really appreciate your writing on the subject, Mr. Capehart, but sometimes I worry about the emphasis on the African-American community's support or lack of support on marriage equality. I wish we had journalists holding accountable people of all races on this issue of basic equality. African-Americans are hardly the only source of opposition to same-sex marriage and the burden of fighting for equality must fall on all of our shoulders.

Posted by: DCCharles | March 8, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

We also need to raise up the people within the Maryland General Assembly who support the bill. There are nine African-American senators and only three of them voted against the bill in that chamber. On the House side, there are ten members of the Black Caucus who are co-sponsors, chief among them Keiffer Mitchell, whose uncle had guided the bill through the General Assembly in the 1960s to make it legal for people of different races to marry.

Posted by: TerrenceDoyle | March 8, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: rlj1 | March 8, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"I worry about the emphasis on the African-American community's .... lack of support on marriage equality..."

It is entirely appropriate to focus on the lack of support within the Black community for Marriage Equality rights. Our community has voted disproportionately (and decisively) against the measure in election after election, much to the discredit of the Black Church. We should already be sensitized to the issue as one of civil rights, and we should NOT accept that same arguments against our gay and lesbian children that were used to keep our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents as second-class citizens (and worse). We must NOT allow ourselves to be used as pawns in some white-supremacist social conservative pissing match, because you know that OUR rights will be next in line once they get gays and lesbians beaten back into the ghetto. We, more than anyone else, should understand the danger in that.

Posted by: VirileneManly | March 8, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse


But you might want to tell it to your "leaders", namely, The Rev. Anthony Evans, who heads the National Black Church Initiative.

"A coalition of 34,000 black churches is blasting President Barack Obama's decision to stop defending the federal law that bans recognition of gay marriage.

The Rev. Anthony Evans, who heads the National Black Church Initiative, says Obama "has violated the Christian faith" by failing to uphold Jesus' teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman."

More at link:

Posted by: Truthbetold3 | March 8, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Amen! Thank you Jonathan Capehart. Sadly, too many people who profess to be religious are the real threat to families as evidenced by their continued demonization of LGBT people and their failure to accept the separation of church and state. Fortunately, in the United States of America, we have the freedom of practicing many religions as well as the freedom to practice no religion. An argument often made against marriage equality is that it will destroy traditional marriage. Massachusetts has enjoyed marriage equality since 2004 and in these past seven years has not sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, since marriage equality was enacted in Massachusetts, the state has experienced the lowest divorce rate in the country. Indeed, many of the states that have demonstrated the most vitriolic opposition to marriage equality are among those with the highest divorce rates. All marriages, whether performed before a justice of the peace or in a church, are legal, civil contracts. In fact, in the early history of marriages, they were officiated by the equivalents of justices of the peace or other officials. In relatively recent history, commoners, desirous of emulating royalty with their extravagent cereomonies in palaces and magnificent cathedrals, sought to copy the royals by getting married in churches. Whether one chooses to get married by a preacher in a church or by a justice of the peace in a courthouse, one must first obtain a marriage license or the contract (marriage)will not be legal. Should people decide to divorce, it is the court, a legal entity, not the church, a religious entity, that must sanction the dissolution of the marriage contract. Perhaps, the energy expended opposing marriage equality could better be spent on enhancing educational opportunities and encouraging marriage versus out of wedlock births and encouraging postponement of conception until the parents are able to support themselves and any offspring they bring into the world.

Posted by: ronaldking | March 8, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Jonathan.

It's worth noting, too, that the anti-gay churches practice abundant hypocrisy. Their Bible is fervently opposed to divorce except in very limited circumstances, with excommunication required for those who divorce. Do those churches follow that teaching? No. That would threaten the collection plate.

So, they are Cafeteria Christians -- picking and choosing what they will follow from the Bible and using it to advance their bigotry.

Posted by: MatterOfThought | March 9, 2011 6:39 AM | Report abuse

Well said, Jonathan.

It's worth noting, too, that the anti-gay churches practice abundant hypocrisy. Their Bible is fervently opposed to divorce except in very limited circumstances, with excommunication required for those who divorce. Do those churches follow that teaching? No. That would threaten the collection plate.

So, they are Cafeteria Christians -- picking and choosing what they will follow from the Bible and using it to advance their bigotry.

Posted by: MatterOfThought | March 9, 2011 6:39 AM | Report abuse

In 2011, I am dismayed by the strong opposition to same sex marriage by churches in Prince George's County. There are many issues that are threats to the well-being of families in the county, and I do not count same sex marriage as one of them.

What about other pressing issues of today--the homicide rate in the county, the number of children born to single mothers, the number of children who will not graduate from high school, and the number of children in foster care? Those are issues that churches could tackle and make a positive difference.

I am reminded of a white lesbian couple that adopted two African American baby boys from the same birth mother. Unfortunately, she had a history of crack use. These two boys are in a stable, nurturing home that will help them to grow into healthy and successful young men. What a tragedy it would be for those two boys had they grown up in foster care. Yet, this couple would not be able to marry in Maryland.

Let loving couples of the same sex marry. Enabling them to marry and raise children in a nurturing home helps all of our families.

Posted by: squinn1 | March 9, 2011 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Amen, I think NOT!

I find it very interesting that many of you are quoting the bible or its content but are only citing the portions that fit your need. If you want to talk about, talk about it as a whole! Don't forget that God's word is clear and defined on all of these subjects including the sanctity of marriage and alternative relationships. Don't call anyone a hypocrite if you are not willing to accept that you are the same as you don't acknowledge that homosexuality is a sin right along with all the others you mentioned. Don't try to manipulate the Word to fit your need. It is what it is! Oh yeah, and you Mr. Simons should be ashamed of yourself! To whom much is given, much is expected! You have very blessed and have been placed in a position to educate and give back truth. Your stance is not truth and to spout untruths on such a high platform - you will reap what you sow! God is very clear in his Word. There are no adjustments for our personal desires. It’s about conforming to His image and that is only done through acceptance of His word and submission to His will. Everyone is broken, everyone a sinner, but our sins should not be legalized. Alternative lifestyle is a personal choice it is not a platform to redefine the family unit.

Don't get it twisted, The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail. Which side of the gate will you be on?

Posted by: staceyb225 | March 9, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

@stacyb225- while you may be entitled to your opinion- the issue isn't whether the bible or you agree with same-sex marriage.

We thankfully live in a country that was founded on freedom of religion and our founding fathers had the sense to base our constitution on the separation of church and state. I don't want to infringe on anyone's religion when it comes to marriage-equality and your church is free not to marry same-sex couples and not to recognize their marriages.

But civil marriage is something the state confers- not a religious institution. So when the state confers something it must confer it equally on all its citizens. The bill in the legislature in Maryland is for civil marriage-equality and it makes it very clear that it doesn't impinge on anyone's religion or house of worship.

So your argument is actually specious as the bible has absolutely nothing to do with this issue. You may interpret the bible anyway you see fit. This is about a constitutional right.

Posted by: peterdc | March 9, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

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