Former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond Calls on Maryland to Pass Marriage

As the Maryland Senate debates the freedom to marry this week, civil rights leader and Voice for Equality Julian Bond urged lawmakers to do the right thing. In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, he recalled passed struggles for equality in America:

I firmly believe that this is a matter of civil rights, equal protection and equality. Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives — the right to equal treatment before the law. These are rights shared by everyone; there is no one in the United States who does not — or should not — share in enjoying these rights. Discrimination is wrong no matter who the victim is. We cannot move toward full human rights protection and opportunity without confronting — and ending — homophobia. For it is homophobia that is at the root of denying the freedom to marry to gays and lesbians.

Bond quoted fellow Voice for Equality Coretta Scott King, who said in 2000, "Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination."

Bond, who was Chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010, also mentioned the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virgina, which ended laws banning interracial marriage. He went on to emphasize the particular harm that marriage discrimination has for people of color:

Standing for the freedom to marry is about supporting all families, but I would be remiss without highlighting the impact that this inequality has on black same-sex couples, who statistically are already economically disadvantaged compared to their straight sisters and brothers. In comparison to black opposite-sex couples and white same-sex couples, black same-sex couples are more likely to parent children and earn a lower annual income. The lack of marriage rights negatively affects black same-sex couples because they are also more likely to work in the public sector, relying on health insurance that is often only afforded to married couples.

A majority of Senators have said they will support the marriage bill, and a vote could come later this week.