NAACP president Benjamin Jealous publicly endorsed gay marriage Monday at a press conference after the civil rights organization voted Saturday to endorse “marriage equality” at a meeting of its board of directors in Miami.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed the resolution “as a continuation of its historic commitment to equal protection under the law,” according to a May 19 press release.
“It is the responsibility, the history of the NAACP to speak up on the civil rights issues of our times,” Jealous said. “We are both proud of our history and challenged by it — challenged to never allow threats to equality for all people go uncontested.”
Jealous took a swipe at states like North Carolina that recently voted to amend its constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“As marriage equality has expanded to an ever-increasing number of states, there have been other states that have once again taken to enshrining discrimination into their constitutions,” Jealous explained. “I’d like to point out that our country has had a great history of always using constitutions to expand rights, and this development turns us in a dangerous direction.
The resolution states that NAACP will oppose and “continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.” The resolution also states that NAACP will “affirm the religious freedoms of all people.”
President Barack Obama came out in support of gay marriage almost two weeks ago.
Many African-Americans still oppose gay marriage, viewing marriage as a religious issue, not a civil rights issue. A Pew Forum poll found last October that 62 percent of Protestant African Americans opposed gay marriage.
According to the LA Times, the directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauded the NAACP’s decision at their own board meeting Saturday in Seattle.
“Today is a historic day,” Rea Carey, executive director of the task force, told the LA Times. “This is what leadership looks like in this country.”
A Gallup poll last year found that Americans supported the legalization of gay marriage 53 percent to 45 percent. This year, the same poll showed 50 percent of Americans supported it and 48 percent opposed it.