Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Gay Marriage, Black Community Divided on Defining Issue as a “Civil Right”

Blacks are more likely to identify as LGBT in America but community remains split on linking gay rights to human rights

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Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: On March 27, several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court in the nation’s capital.

Behind the main doors of the highest court in the U.S., nine justices were hearing oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act. This legislation was signed into law by President Clinton and asserts that states do not have to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state. In short, this means same-sex marriages are not recognized by the federal government.

This was the second day of same-sex marriage arguments at the Supreme Court. On March 26, the justices heard arguments about California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The movement to get Proposition 8 passed in 2008 was largely supported by the black community with 70 percent of all black voters voting in favor of the ban on gay marriage.

According to last year’s Gallup report, blacks have the highest percentage of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people who identify with the gay community.

But those who are gay, like nineteen-year old Shaquille Carbon, say it can be even harder for blacks to be accepted into their communities compared to their white counterparts.

We sat down with Shaquille, who is an intern at The Real News, to hear how he was tormented at school because of his sexuality.

SHAQUILLE CARBON, REAL NEWS INTERN: I remember there were about 15, 20 guys waiting for me one day after school that said, we’re going to beat this faggot up, we’re going to get his fruit cup. You know. And I ended up having to be administratively withdrawn from the school for my safety. And I wasn’t able to finish out middle school in an actual school. I had to finish out middle school being home schooled.

DESVARIEUX: Explain to me why gay marriage is a human right. Just break it down for me. Why do you support gay marriage?

CARBON: Not the want just to be married. You know, we can be together. We be lovey-dovey. We don’t need a piece of paper to validate our love for each other. No, that’s not the fight. The fight is just having equal rights, just being, you know, able to be on the same level playing field with people who are in heterosexual relationships. You know, if they can do it, if they have the liberties, than why not us?

DESVARIEUX: Equal rights is what demonstrators hope the justices will focus on in making their decision.

“Equal Justice Under the Law” is what is emblazoned over the doors of the Supreme Court. And that is what these demonstrators say they are fighting for. Many black supporters who link this movement to the civil rights movement of the past are calling marriage equality not just a civil right but a human right.

PASTOR ELDER HARRIS THOMAS, UNITY CHURCH OF BALTIMORE: This is a human rights situation. Blacks deserve to be able to their freedom just as gays and lesbians deserve to have theirs.

PASTOR DARRELL JORDAN, LIFE CHURCH INTERNATIONAL: The Bible is actually inerrant, and it also transcends time. Many times cultures change, our culture is definitely changing from the way we view things even ten or 20 years ago. But the basic tenants of the Bible, including morality, has not changed. And God’s view of marriage hasn’t changed as well.

DESVARIEUX: Pastor Darrell Jordan says that his church, Life Church International, welcomes homosexuals. But when asked if he could agree that marriage equality is a civil rights issue, he said that the debate about same-sex marriage is not a legal issue but a moral one.

JORDAN: And we love all, even as God loves all. But God doesn’t condone or even accept all of our practices. And in his view homosexuality is one other sexual sin just like all the sins, all sexual sins. Should we condone them all, accept them all?

THOMAS: The problem that we see especially within the Christian community is that we continue to believe that it is the first-century Bible that we’re walking in. We’re now living in a 21st-century time, and we need to start interpreting the Bible. We need to start looking and seeing the Bible as it is today.

DESVARIEUX: Elder Harris Thomas is an openly gay pastor at the Unity Fellowship Church in Baltimore, Maryland. He said that those that use the Bible to oppose same sex marriages should be aware of how the Bible has been used as a tool of oppression in the past. He pointed to how the bible was used to justify the enslavement of blacks and the ban against interracial marriage, which was finally deemed illegal in America in 1967.

THOMAS: Especially within the black community, you would think that they would be a little bit more understanding, because the Bible was used to say that blacks were not welcome. The Bible was used to ostracize blacks. The Bible was used to ostracize women. The Bible was used–anytime that somebody had a personal prejudice, they used the Bible. You can always find something in the Bible to justify what you feel is wrong.

DESVARIEUX: The Court’s decision will most likely be announced at the end of the Court’s term, which will be in June.

For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.