Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marriage Equality in Black & White...or just White!

Recently, I was enroute to my office. While riding the train into the city I pulled my recent copy (August 2009) of The Advocate from my brief case and began reading an article on page 50 entitled “What Gives in Washington?” The article was basically noting the frustration the LGBT community has with the Obama administrations slow movement of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law the defines marriage as being between and a man and woman. The article notes the there is rage in the community when it refers to the president’s progress. To be specific the article says “our rage”. When I read this I wondered what “our” they were refering to. For individuals that are not LGBT it is thought that we are one large group. However, there are several subgroups within the LGBT community. There is the community of color and the white community. When I read articles such as the one noted above the communities of color are not even a consideration.

If we look back to the initial Proposition 8 battle ground it has been successfully documented that while it was initially convenient to blame LGBT people of color, expressly the African American community, for the failure of successfully voting NO to Proposition 8. Based on the initial statistics many white LGBT men and women began blaming black and brown men and women for the passing of Proposition 8. When research was done beyond the statistics it was discovered that the “community” failed to look closely at all of the communities of color (LGBT and heterosexual) and attempt to educate them on the need to vote NO. Once again, the white LGBT community had taken communities of color for granted. To any LGBT person of color in any city this is nothing new at all. We have always been made to feel unwanted from north Halsted Street (Boystown) in Chicago with the new Center on Halsted to the Castro District in San Francisco.

In the overall landscape of the marriage equality struggle, the communities of color have been all but absent. When I see an LGBT man or woman getting married their partner does not look like me and therefore, there is a since of extreme disconnect because it does not affirm my relationship with my partner who happens to be African American. The white community does not understand that dynamic in the debate of marriage equality nor have many of them tried to ascertain why the issue of marriage equality does not seem to be anywhere on our radar screen.

It would benefit those that in the marriage equality fight to review the 2000 census, which states that more than half of the populations of Black same-sex couples in the U.S., are raising children.

· Black female same sex couples are as likely as Black married opposite sex couples to live with a nonbiological (foster or adopted) child (14%) while Black male same-sex couples are slightly less likely than Black married opposite-sex couples to live with a nonbiological child (10% v 13%).
· Black women in same-sex households parent at almost the same rate as Black married opposite-sex couples (61% v 69%), while Black men in same-sex relationships parent at about two-thirds the rate of married opposite-sex couples (46% v 69%)

Black women are discharged from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at rates far exceeding their representation among service members; although they make up less than one percent of the military, they represent three percent of those discharged.

When it comes to the progress or what is defined as the slow movement of the president’s progress we as African Americans look at it very differently. The LGBT communities of color see the steps that Obama has taken in his short 6 month term in a manner that is less about his progress on LGBT matters but his progress a the President of the United States. It must clearly be understood that the agenda of the LGBT community of color and that of the white LGBT community is different. It has been stated to me and the basic sentiment in the Black LGBT community that if DADT and DOMA were repealed tomorrow the white community would not be on the battlefield for issues that matter in our community (i.e. HIV/AIDS prevention, joblessness, homeless teens, etc). We have not even tackled the issue of racism within the LGBT community.

It is my hope that the DADT and DOMA are repealed and I will do what I can to see that it happens, however, the advocates that are in the forefront must reach out to people of color for it is important for us all to cross the finish line together.