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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Gay Rights Are Our Rights

4/2/2014, 3 p.m.
Courtesy of Ludovic Bertron via Wikipedia

It's hard to find a better example of black self-hatred than William Reed's recent column, "Out of the Closet Onto the Altar" which appeared in the March 13 edition of The Washington Informer. Reed is actually happy that more of our African brothers and sisters will be tortured and jailed in Uganda and Nigeria simply for being honest about being gay.

Reed is not the only black rushing to assure conservatives that their prejudices are legitimate. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson violated his Hippocratic oath to "First, do no harm" by spouting a paranoid conspiracy theory that gays are forcing the rest of us to change the one, traditional, definition of marriage.

Wrong. There has never ever been just one religious or legal definition of marriage. Old Testament prophets and some contemporary Moslems and Mormons, have all embraced polygamy. And, as Professor William N. Eskridge Jr. of Yale Law School documented in "A History of Same Sex Marriage," in the 18th century, a few Native American, African and other "traditional" societies both recognized and respected marriages between people of the same gender. For example, Ifeyinwa Olinke a wealthy woman of the Igbo tribe, situated in what is now Eastern Nigeria, had nine different wives.

America's states have had many different definitions of marriage. Deaf people were sometimes refused the right to wed. Virginia criminalized interracial unions. Today, some states still recognize common law marriages.

Reed and Carson believe in a conspiracy to undermine "our own traditions." Wrong again. Homosexuals are less than 10 percent of the population. They changed hearts, minds and laws because even more straight American voters, legislatures and judges support their Constitutional argument for equal rights.

In fairness to Dr. Carson, at least he, like former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, acknowledges gay equality under law before contradicting himself and rejecting gay equality in personal relationships. Reed goes much further into hatred, actually welcoming new violence against black gays by pointing out that, "Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial era law that criminalized sexual acts against the order of nature."

In desperately trying to leverage the intolerance of a few African politicians to prove that "Gay marriage is not a black thing," Reed blindly ignores his own evidence that it was the white Colonial powers that passed the original law, not black Ugandans. Many traditional African cultures were much more accepting of all types of sexual variety before outsiders forced European and Middle Eastern religious prejudices upon them.

Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Bishop Desmond Tutu and others risked their lives for the Freedom Charter which guarantees homosexual's human rights. Under black democratic rule, South Africa legalized gay marriage.

Reed and Carson reject the oldest, and deepest, black religious moral value: justice and equal rights for all. Sure some black people are as prejudiced as whites. But, more and more African-Americans are realizing how homophobia has spread aids, justified police brutality, and deprived black children of loving adoptive parents. National research surveys prove that African-American churchgoers are much more likely to support gay rights and marriage than every other group of conservative evangelical Protestants.

If conservatives think African-Americans won't fight to protect their gay neighbors, they need to review their black history. Washington, D.C. led this fight by passing gay and human rights legislation in 1977, long before New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

Human rights cannot be determined by a popularity contest, but we must face the facts. More African-Americans have voted for gay marriage, and candidates who supported it, than ever voted for a conservative.

Paul Ruffins

Mt. Rainier, Md.