Last month, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) approved a resolution supporting gay marriage. This followed Barack Obama’s public endorsement of gay marriage, which was not surprising, the NAACP has marched in lockstep with Obama since his ascension to power. Obama’s endorsement allowed the NAACP to follow in his wake.
But reaction within the NAACP was definitely not unanimous. As an institution which was traditionally empowered by religious belief, some of its religious members took umbrage and spoke out angrily about the NAACP’s thumbing its nose at religious principles. Pastor Theodore Ward, the head of the Schenectady, N.Y. branch of the NAACP, resigned. And the Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr., a member of the national board and possibly the most vocal opponent of gay marriage in the NAACP, also resigned, saying:
“Certainly, there will be individuals who are obviously in support of this, and they will come along — and there will be new individuals who will join the NAACP. But historically, there is a faith base, a religious base to the NAACP. For those individuals in the religious community who feel the same way I do about this particular issue, they are already a little upset over the issue of what has taken place.”
Ratliff has made withering comments about the gay community’s attempt to align itself with the NAACP before: at the Iowa statehouse last year, he had this to say:
“The deviant behavior is not the same thing as being denied the right to vote because of the color of one’s skin. The deviant behavior is not the same thing as being denied where one may sit on a bus … Gay community: Stop hijacking the civil rights movement.”
Ratliff said some NAACP members will back an emergency resolution to confront the issue.
Meanwhile, National Chairwoman Roslyn Brock is parroting Barack Obama:
“Clearly, this is an evolving conversation. And I believe that there are many in our organization who will still need to, or we hope will, evolve to a place where they can firmly stand with us.”
And Indiana Chairwoman Barbara Bolling laughed and chortled over the angry reaction, “Oh, sure. Right after it was announced, kind of a little firestorm started.”
Supporters found a gay historical figure who was part of the community they wished to exploit in order to insinuate that gays were an integral part of that movement. In this case, they cite Bayard Rustin, who was the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.
Barack Obama wants the black community to follow him blindly, as they did in 2008. But his embrace of the gay community has already triggered some fissures in what once was a solid constituency.