Black leaders commend President Obama’s support of the freedom to marry

On Friday, four of the most prominent black leaders in the country released an open letter applauding President Barack Obama's recent endorsement of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Rev. Al Sharpton, President and Founder of the National Action Network; Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Melanie Campbell, President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, President Emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, all signed onto the letter. 

The letter reads:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As leaders in today’s Civil Rights Movement, we stand behind the President Obama’s belief that same sex couples should be allowed to join in civil marriages. We also affirm that individuals may hold different views on this issue but still work together towards our common goals: fair housing and equitable education, affordable health care and eradicating poverty, all issues of deep and abiding concern for our communities.

President Obama stated his view that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. This is a view that we concur with, because as civil rights leaders we cannot fight to gain rights for some and not for all. At the same time, we acknowledge that the President stated his personal opinion, which everyone is entitled to – both those who agree with him, like us, and those who disagree. The President made clear that his support is for civil marriage for same-sex couples, and he is fully committed to protecting the ability of religious institutions to make their own decisions about their own sacraments.

There will be those who seek to use this issue to divide our community. As a people, we cannot afford such division. It is our hope that conversations on strengthening African American families continue in a civil and respectful way, on all sides, both with those who support the ability of same-sex couples to marry, and those who do not. 

The leaders' joint endorsement commending President Obama is indicative of growing support for the freedom to marry among black Americans. Minority voters have opposed the freedom to marry at a higher rate than white voters, but recent polling shows that the tide is turning quickly

In April, the Pew Research Center measured support for the freedom to marry and found that support among black Americans has steadily increased. According to the report:

In 2008, there were sizable differences in opinions about gay marriage among whites and blacks. While whites opposed gay marriage by a modest 51% to 41% margin, blacks opposed gay marriage by more than two-to-one (63% to 26%).

But the gap has narrowed. Since 2008, the proportion of African-Americans favoring gay marriage has increased from 26% to 39%, while opposition has fallen from 63% to 49%.  

Freedom to Marry admires the decision from Sharpton, Bond, Campbell and Lowery to release the letter last week. With continued support from these hugely important voices, support for the freedom to marry among all communities in the United States can only continue to rise.