DC, same-sex marriage, and racial stereotypes

Dec 17 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

I was listening to Tell Me More yesterday and was drawn into the story.
The host interviewed Michael Crawford, a DC-based activist. He attempted to debunk the idea that black communities are strongly anti-gay marriage. They played a clip of former DC mayor Marion Barry explaining how he personally might approve of gay marriage but he felt he had to represent his constituents by voting against it. Crawford called him out on a couple of scores. First, Crawford pointed out that Barry gave no polling data. Then he pointed out that he has the support of a large coalition of clergy, contradicting Barry's claim that clergy don't support gay marriage. His most important point, though was this:

Traditionally we have not put the rights of a minority up for a public vote.

Really, there's no better argument. It leaves those who oppose marriage equality with nowhere else to go rhetorically. They are either bigots who want the law to support their own biases, or they are bigots who want cover from other bigots on a ballot.

11 responses so far

  • Mu says:

    This is why I so liked the German system. Everyone gets to have a civil union first, and that's the only one that counts legally. Most people have a religious wedding afterward, and usually take that date as their anniversary. But they did introduce civil marriage for gays, and no one really cared.

  • Greg Laden says:

    Here here.
    There is still the element of choice and evil. You are born with your ethnicity/"race" but if you chose to be gay than it is your own fault if you are a victim, etc. Many don't see being gay as a valid minority. But we don't expect the argument that social reform is not a democratic process to work on those bigots anyway.

  • Katharine says:

    "Traditionally we have not put the rights of a minority up for a public vote."
    Seconded for truth, although I am concerned about whether the judiciary will allow the various stupid propositions to create a precedent.

  • ZenMonkey says:

    Very interesting. It's not a secret that there is a taboo against homosexuality in many black communities. But that's quite the enormous leap by Barry or anyone to take that situation and extrapolate it to "my constituents are against gay marriage." I can only guess he was alluding to that taboo, but Crawford was quite right to pick apart a political position based around it without any evidence. Perhaps Barry was projecting -- but as someone who was a resident of D.C. during the "bitch set me up" years, I can't muster up much respect for the guy, so maybe I'M projecting.

  • Uncle Glenny says:

    Weenie Jason Chaffetz from Utah is apparently intending to make a fuss.

  • dcgirl says:

    Congressman Chaffetz will raise a fuss, but he's the ranking minority member on the committee which gives him little power if the Democrats won't play ball. So far they don't seem interested.
    Congress seems less interested in messing with DC's affairs after Senator Launch Faircloth got beaten by John Edwards partly because the people of North Carolina felt he spent too much time involved in trying to govern DC and not enough time being a Senator form North Carolina. They still do it, we had a nice show down over control recently, but less often.
    I'm keeping my fingers crossed that even the conservative democrats will just keep their heads down and mumble about local control if asked. I mean we don't have a vote in Congress even though we pay federal taxes, we could at least be allowed to run our own city.

  • James Sweet says:

    As far as Barry not citing poll numbers... Dunno about DC, but I seem to remember that in both the lead up to and in the wake of the Prop 8 vote, there were some pretty clear polling numbers that black Democrats were far more likely to favor Prop 8 than white Democrats. I'll try to find a cite if somebody wants to call bullshit on this one...
    But yeah, the bottom line is just what you quoted: We typically don't let the majority vote on the rights of minorities. Even if Barry is right in asserting that his constituency is largely opposed to gay marriage, that is no excuse for opposing it. We can debate the extent of a representative's responsibility to represent his or her constituency (it can't be absolute, or else why have a representative in the first place?), but certainly it is trumped by the responsibility to stand for human rights...?!!!
    I have a hardcore-Republican relative (birther, deather, everything) who, as a white Orthodox Jew, recently got remarried to an evangelical Christian black woman. I really hope I never explicitly find out their thoughts on gay marriage... It's a pretty safe bet that the guy will toe the Republican line, and the give some of the intensely Biblical views the woman has expressed, I wouldn't be surprised if she opposed it either. Given that they have directly benefited from Loving v. Virginia, a case where the analogies to the present controversy could not be more painfully obvious, if I ever got in a discussion with them about it I'm pretty sure I'd end up saying something really offensive.... :/

  • Vicki says:

    Whether sexual orientation is a choice is something we can debate until the cows come home. And it doesn't matter. Religion is a choice, and the bigots aren't going to say that they don't need religious freedom because they can always convert to the government-approved church of the year.

  • BaldApe says:

    My brother (who is way, way more conservative than I) asks "Why should we allow them to get married?"
    My reply is "This is the United States. The correct question is 'Why should they not be allowed to get married?"
    The amazing thing is that people will vote to restrict the rights of others to do things that they admit do not affect them in any way at all.

  • James Sweet says:

    @9: I don't think that article in any way contradicts the notion that black Democrats were more likely to vote for Prop 8 than white Democrats. And yes, religiosity is a better predictor, but uh, duh, that's exactly what people are saying, is that the anti-homosexual dogma coming out of black churches was a non-trivial factor in passing the ridiculous amendment.
    It's not that important anyway, I'm just saying, Barry might not have been totally full of shit when he made that comment about his constituency. Hell, the article you linked to supports exactly that: 58% of California African-Americans opposed gay marriage. Do you think the number is that much different in DC? I'm guessing not. So I think his statement was defensible.
    Once again, though, we don't let the majority vote on the rights of the minority. So even if 3/5 of his constituency supports denying equal rights to homosexuals, so what?