Déjà Vu All Over Again

NOM’S Wedge Strategy Is Out of an Old Anti-Civil Rights Playbook
-Rev. Gil Caldwell

To my friends in Methodists in New Directions and all others are who distressed by the revelation that the National Organization for Marriage has a deliberate “game plan” to enlist blacks in their efforts to prevent marriage equality:

I remember comparable efforts during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Then, there were those who sought to enlist blacks to support efforts to prevent racial integration. And when I read of the desire of NOM ”to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies” (New York Times, 3/27/12), I thought of what it would mean if they were successful in doing so. We who are black were being urged by NOM to separate ourselves from Bayard Rustin, Barbara Jordan, James Baldwin, Wanda SykesRev. Yvette FlunderDon Lemon, Sheryl Swoopes, Countee Cullen, Johnny Mathis, and many, many other black lesbians and gay men, living and dead. The contradiction of any group that seeks to drive a wedge in the “family” of a group of people who share a common racial history and heritage is beyond belief.

But because of the narrow and demeaning perspective that many of those in the anti-marriage equality movement have of same-gender loving persons it is no surpise to me that, for them, black LGBTQ persons are rendered invisible. One of the disturbing realties in these moments when gay rights are moving forward is that at times organizations like NOM, and sadly some gay rights organizations, give the impression that there are no black gay persons or gay communities. This is compounded when some black persons within the church and beyond the church appear to be so anti-marriage equality and anti-gay that they forget that they are limiting the rights of the gay black persons in their families, churches, and communities.

The resistance to marriage equality for same-sex couples has caused me to remember the wisdom of that sage Yogi Berra, who said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” The National Organization for Marriage is not unlike those persons and groups who in another time were anti-interracial marriage. These persons and groups used Scripture, culture, history, and the “protection of traditional marriage” as rationale for their opposition, particularly to the marriage of a black person to a white person. NOM, you are a living illustration of the cliché, “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME.” Shame on you!

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Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist minister, a veteran of the Black Civil Rights Movement, a founding member of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, an outspoken advocate for the civil rights of LGBT people and a founding partner of Truth in Progress.