Marriage Ban Sides Court Blacks
The state’s largest civil rights group, the NAACP, is asking voters to reject what it says is an invitation to discriminate. A prominent Raleigh minister, meanwhile, says that same invitation is an opportunity to strengthen the state’s stance against relationships that go against the Bible.
These are just two examples of how well-known institutions with significant African-American followings are on opposite sides of a hot-button political and social question that all of North Carolina’s voters will be asked to decide May 8: whether a ban on gay marriage and civil unions should be written into the state constitution.
In the next few months, the debate will spread to churches, college campuses, the Internet, neighborhoods and private homes.
Black voters and their positions on the amendment will get a lot of attention, particularly now that a wide-open Democratic primary for governor will draw more Democrats - and more African Americans - to the polls.
African-Americans were 27.6 percent of primary voters in 2008 and nearly 18 percent in 2004.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, is a vocal opponent. The NAACP is a member of the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, the organization fighting the amendment. The coalition is participating in the annual HKonJ march today in Raleigh.
Barber frames the amendment not as a referendum on gay marriage, but as a question of whether discrimination should be written into the constitution.
“We should not be trying to write people out of constitutional protections,” Barber said. The issue of gay marriage, he said, “is a private religious issue between your faith community, your priest, your pastor.”
Barber would not say whether any members of his Goldsboro church disagreed with his position.
For the Rev. Patrick L. Wooden of Raleigh’s Upper Room Church of God in Christ, supporting the amendment is standing up for marriage as God intended it.
Wooden, who is on the executive committee of the Vote For Marriage NC campaign, said he respects Barber but disagrees with him.
“If it is writing discrimination into the constitution, it’s not bad discrimination,” Wooden said. “Marriage by definition is a covenant between a man and a woman.”