There's been a lot of shit-slinging - in California, Oregon, and elsewhere - about the role of race in divisions over the future of marriage equality for same-sex couples. CNN's infamous post Prop 8 polling suggested that 70 percent of African-American voters cast ballots supporting Prop 8 - a poll that caused serious ruptures and rumblings across the country.
But a piece just published this afternoon online in the New York Times raises serious new questions about these issues, as a major black civil rights organization is apparently trying to remove the Rev. Eric P. Lee - a supporter of marriage equality - as their Los Angeles chapter president simply because of his support for same-sex marriage.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference — the 50-year-old civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others — is seeking to remove the president of its Los Angeles chapter in response to his support of same-sex marriage in California.
During the battle last fall over Proposition 8, an amendment to the State Constitution that banned same-sex marriage, the chapter’s president, the Rev. Eric P. Lee, was more than a tangential figure for the opposition. He was front and center at an opposition group’s large rally at City Hall and marched in the blazing sun for 15 miles in Fresno. Many other local African-American pastors prepared mailings featuring church leaders in support of the proposition and linking their views to President Obama, then the Democratic nominee for president.
Umm... WTF?! Apparently laywers from the organization, dissatisfied with Lee's pro-equality stance, are threatening to remove him from his post. Read on...
Mr. Lee, the former pastor of In His Steps, an African-American Wesleyan Church in Los Angeles that he described as “very conservative,” said he saw failures both in the leadership of the conference (“Dr. King would be turning over in his grave right now,” he said) and the largely white anti-Proposition 8 movement that did not more actively seek the support of church-going African-Americans.
“The black church played a significant role in Proposition 8 passing,” he said. “The failure of the campaign was to presume that African-Americans would see this as a civil rights issue.”
This is all very interesting... in an interview with the Mercury's Matt Davis last May, prominent local African-American LGBT activist Craig Tyson said "I find it difficult to believe that the whole black community is against gay marriage." I agree with him: the "whole black community" may not be against gay marriage, just like the "whole Catholic community," the "whole straight community" or even the "whole Mormon community" may not be against marriage equality.
But it's disturbing to read that one of this country's cornerstone civil rights organizations, founded by no less than the founder of the modern civil rights movement, is moving swiftly to remove Rev. Lee as president simply because he supports marriage equality. Where does this leave the civil rights movement? Where does it leave us?