Why Marriage Equality Matters for Straight Blacks

Pastor Tolton says gay marriage will not make it harder for straight Black couples to marry. 

The successful vote in Maryland for marriage equality, coupled with four years of an unrestrained President Obama, is a rare opportunity for Black America to have a new and powerful conversation about human sexuality. As Black America wrestles with issues around relationships, the community will also focus on self-healing. As Black America talks about marriage equality, the community will find greater ease and success in addressing its unspoken heterosexual marriage crisis. As Black America focuses on its sons, the community will be forced to deal with the injustice of the penal system targeting them. As Black America affirms new formations of family, the community will come to fully validate the complex and beautiful diversity of our family structure. As Black America addresses the economic implications of marriage equality, the community will be more cognizant of the need for fair pay for Black women. As Black America accepts diversity in religious thought as part of our evolving social composition, we are drawn to explore the meaning of inclusion of all our differences, especially for our LGBT brothers and sisters.

The LGBT community is loudly rejoicing from the passing of marriage equality in Maryland. In the process, there has been redemption in that Blacks who were blamed for Proposition 8 passing in California 2008, are now seemingly aligned with the LGBT community. The truth of the matter is that Blacks in Maryland spoke loudly, and they spoke clearly.

Maggie Gallagher, former president of the National Organization for Marriage has stated, “It is not an accident that it takes a man and a woman coming together to create a child.” I agree that the primary argument the religious right uses against marriage equality is rooted in what I like to call a socio-biological argument. It suggests that same-sex love’s inability to produce children is God’s way of telling us that such relationships are contrary to the Creator’s plan. This belief system lends itself to the alarmist leap that marriage equality prompts and justifies any form of love relationships being viable including bestiality, pedophilia, and polygamy. Henceforth, marriage for LGBT couples is the gateway to the end of civilization.

It is my firm belief, this was not the concern of blacks in Maryland, nor is it the concern of black conservative Christians. The opposition to gay marriage in the black church is driven by a far more subtle and still powerfully compelling fear hidden within the social fabric of the black community.

According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey Survey, 33% of African American Christians are married, compared to 60% of Whites. Based on my lifelong experience in the Black church, the demographic composition of the average inner city Black church, with a membership of 100 people shows a familiar 5-to-1 ratio of heterosexual men to women.  This 5-to-1 single heterosexual female to single heterosexual male ratio in the lack church, causes the issue of marriage equality to be so volatile for this community.

There is a heterosexual marriage crisis in the Black church, which is an exaggerated version of the heterosexual marriage crisis in Black America particularly among the working class and poor. The prospect of gay marriage flourishing in Black America, which is really a conversation about marriage between black men, is a blunt reminder of the crisis facing Black heterosexual men - this is one of the primary issues. Aha! This is not about the end of civilization. This is about the Black church’s struggle in drawing straight men, and the overall lack of emotionally developed, and appropriately parented straight Black men ready and inclined to be married. It is a terribly complex sociological issue shrouded in a simplistic religious tempest.

The gay and lesbian community is rejoicing from the passing of marriage equality in Maryland. Yes, the truth of the matter is that Blacks in Maryland sent a resounding and affirming message for equality. The assumption fostered by the media and readily embraced by conservative Americans is that the Black community is blindly homophobic, but Maryland, with a high population voted in favor of marriage equality confirming that nothing could be further from the truth.