10 African-Americans Who Support the Freedom to Marry

Ever day new leaders in government, religion, entertainment, sports, and business and labor are speaking in support of ending the exclusion of same-sex couples and their families from marriage. These Voices for Equality are prominent Americans who are refusing to be silent as we work towards marriage nationwide.

In recognition of Black History Month, here are a few key African-American leaders who support the freedom to marry:

Charles Barkley

Hall of Famer and 11-time NBA all-star Charles Barkley won the MVP in 1993, played in two Olympic games, and was named one of the top 50 basketball players of all time. In an interview with CNN's Campbell Brown on October 27, 2008, Barkley declared his support for marriage equality, saying, "I am a big gay marriage guy."

Julian Bond

NAACP Chairman and founder of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee Julian Bond is one of the most prominent figures in the Black Civil Rights Movement. In a 2006 speech at the University of Virginia, Bond noted, "Marriage is a civil right. If you don’t want gay people to marry in your church, good for you. But you can’t say they can’t marry in your city."

Rev. Michael Eric Dyson

Author and professor Rev. Michael Eric Dyson was named by Essence magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African Americans In an interview with Tavis Smiley, Rev. Dyson said, "The ability to marry whomever one chooses is a civil rights issue, one not best left to high-minded moralists. Our feathers needn't be ruffled by gays and lesbians who seek to tie the knot of matrimony."

Whoopi Goldberg

The award winning actress Whoopi Goldberg often says, "If you don't believe in gay marriage, then don't marry a gay person." She has been a longtime supporter of civil rights for LGBT people and in fall 2008, she marched with 15,000 New Yorkers in protest of Proposition 8.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell

Princeton University professor and writer Melissa Harris-Lacewell has provided political and cultural commentary for The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Crain's Chicago Business and Newsday and on NBC and MSNBC. In the October 2009 issue of The Nation, she said "My fierce commitment to marriage equality derives, in part, from my personal biography as an interracial child, descended from American slaves, and raised in Virginia, beginning less than a decade after the Loving decision. Even though I am heterosexual, marriage equality is personal. I learn from the history of racial and interracial marriage exclusion that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is wrong."

Coretta Scott-King

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006), wife of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was an active civil rights activist in her own right helping to organize the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and actively advocating civil rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In speaking out against the Federal Marriage Amendment which would have amended the U.S. Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marriage she said, "A Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

Rev. Eric Lee

Rev. Eric Lee is president/CEO of the Los Angeles chapter of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the 50-year-old civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr About the freedom to marry, Rev. Lee has said, "Marriage equality is a civil rights issue. Anytime one group of people is denied the rights another group of people enjoy, it is fundamentally a denial of civil rights."

Gov. Deval Patrick

Gov. Deval Patrick became the first African-American to be elected governor of Massachusetts in 2006. A strong supporter of the freedom to marry, Gov. Patrick has said, "People come before their government as equals... If the government is going to give marriage licenses to anyone, it has to give them to everyone, regardless of whether the spouse you choose is of the same gender."

Russell Simmons

Hip hop impresario and co-founder of Def Jam Records Russell Simmons sent an open letter to New York Governor David Paterson in support of marriage equality in April 2009, and then in October 2009 participated in the Love Unites Shepard Fairey Equality Project, an advocacy project created to raise awareness of LGBT equality.

Wanda Sykes

The stand up comic and TV actress who was named one of Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America in 2004 has long been a supporter of LGBT equality. She came out publicly to announce her marriage to her wife in the wake of the passage of Prop 8 in California saying "We shouldn't have to be standing out here demanding something we automatically should have as citizens of this country."Go to [Link] for more Voices for Equality