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NAACP board endorses marriage equality, earning praise from LGBT community

WASHINGTON – On the heels of President Obama’s historic support for marriage equality and subsequent polling on the issue among African-Americans, the NAACP board of directors late Saturday endorsed marriage equality.

The NAACP resolution said:

"The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will 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. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment."

The 103-year-old civil-rights group has historically committed itself to equal protection under the law.

"The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all people," said Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the board of directors of the NAACP. "We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law."

"Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP's support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.

The LGBT community reacts enthusiastically

“We could not be more pleased with the NAACP’s history-making vote today – which is yet another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said.

“It’s time the shameful myth that the African-American community is somehow out of lockstep with the rest of the country on marriage equality is retired - once and for all. The facts and clear momentum toward marriage speak for themselves.”

Half of African-Americans, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted earlier this month, back marriage equality. The Journal reported, “Almost every demographic slice was more in favor of gay marriage than it had been in 2009.”

Following President Obama’s historic endorsement of the issue also this month, attitudes within the African-American community become even more positive. A Washington Post poll showed that 54% of African-Americans backed the President’s statement. A Public Policy Poll also taken after the President’s announcement reflected an 11-point increase among African-Americans in North Carolina who support either marriage or civil unions for committed gay and lesbian couples.

Months ago, HRC unearthed secret internal memos by the so-called National Organization for Marriage that admitted in stark terms its racial strategy. One memo to its board of directors stated NOM would drive a “wedge between gays and blacks.”

“NOM has pursued ugly racial politics seeking to divide people, but what is becoming crystal clear is that its strategy is not working,” Solmonese said. “Americans from all walks of life are uniting to support love, commitment, and stronger families.”

Marriage Equality USA responds

Marriage Equality USA also applauded the NAACP for taking a stand for marriage equality.

“The NAACP has been a long-time ally in the fight for marriage equality. Today's vote cements the bond of our common struggle to insure that all Americans are treated equally. We thank our friends at the NAACP for their action,” said Brian Silva, Marriage Equality USA executive director.

Stuart Gaffney, MEUSA media director, also weighed in.

”The NAACP has an unbroken history of standing up for civil rights for all Americans, right up through their stand against the discriminatory Amendment 1 in North Carolina, and now today’s historic vote affirming marriage equality for all loving and committed couples," Gaffney said. “Standing together from coast-to-coast with allies such as the NAACP is what is going to make the dream of marriage equality for all loving and committed couples a reality.”

GLAAD responds

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick also responded to the resolution.

"For more than 103 years, the NAACP has been a leading advocate and a voice for members of marginalized communities. Today’s announcement represents their continued stance against the discrimination that LGBT families face. We applaud President Ben Jealous and the NAACP Board of Directors for their leadership on this issue," Graddick said. "Across races, faith traditions, and political persuasions, a majority of our culture recognizes that denying gay couples the chance at happiness that comes with being married is unfair and un-American.”

The NAACP’s recent statement affirming same-sex couples reflects the latest data polling data that shows a significant increase in support for marriage equality among African Americans.

* This week, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that since President Obama declared his support of marriage equality, “54 percent express a favorable view of his position on the issue,” compared to “just 41 percent of African-Americans supported gay marriage in ABC/Post polls in mid-2011 and early 2012.”

* A Public Policy Polling survey found “a noticeable shift in the attitudes of African-Americans in North Carolina toward rights for gay couples in the wake of President Obama’s announcement.

* An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released in March 2012 showed support for marriage equality among African Americans at 50 percent.

* A Field Poll of California voters released in February 2012 found that 53% of Latino and 50% of African-American respondents approved of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

A Gallup poll released this month found that for the second time in the organization’s history, half of Americans support marriage equality.

Last week, GLAAD joined NoWedge 2012: A Memo to Black America, a movement among Black civil rights and faith leaders in response to anti-LGBT tactics to “drive a wedge between gays and Blacks”as first reported by the Human Rights Campaign. Launching at Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., the Black community and faith leaders issued a national declaration regarding the need for an organized, unified response to combat attempts steered at creating tensions with Black and LGBT communities.

“Black faith and community leaders feel the urgency to get in front of the dialogue and fight any conservative tactics to “divide and conquer.” Our community is sophisticated enough to hold nuanced positions on marriage equality and yet be unified in embracing progressive values that benefit the life and well-being of Black America,” said pastor Joseph W. Tolton of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries.

The number of Black faith leaders, activists and public figures who support President Obama’s position on marriage equality continues to grow. After Obama’s historic announcement, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Will Smith and Jay-Z all voiced support. In an interview with CNN, Jay-Z referred to Obama’s position as “the right thing to do as a human being,” he went on to say, “It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”