President Obama announced on national TV his personal position on supporting same sex marriage. His personal position did not change federal, state or local law or policy. The states that oppose same sex marriage are still in place—over half of them. Recently, North Carolina opponents of same sex marriage took to the ballot box and voted a referendum against same sex marriage. And California’s referendum known as Proposition 8 is headed for the Supreme Court. Nothing has changed in those states. Yet, some gay marriage opponents are now talking about sitting out the election. And some Black clergy are talking about the difficulty that they may have with their congregations and getting out the vote in 2012.
Let’s hold on for one moment long enough for people to get a grip on this issue. While same sex marriage is complicated in the African American community, taking a stand to sit out this election is even more than complicated. It’s insane. The real issue that exists is not being talked about by many Black clergy. In case anyone has forgotten, the real issue is the economy. It’s that plain and simple.
And while some folks are getting upset over President Obama’s personal stance on same sex marriage, those same folks ought to be questioning some other things. People should be upset over why no bankers were ever indicted; why no bankers ever went to jail for causing the economy and financial market to fail; Lehman Brothers in the months before their financial collapse netted over $70 million to their top executives and then collapsed months later. We find out this week that JP Morgan was lost $2 billion in the last few months and is expected to lose even more in the coming months. People should be outraged at the crumbling and further eroding of our economic system, instead of the President’s personal stance on same sex marriage.
While I applaud the President taking a stance in support of same sex marriage, I understand the emotional upheaval on his position in some segments of the Black community. Gay issues in the African American community, putting it mildly, are complicated. I just wish the same fervor that catches the attention of some African Americans on the highly emotionally charged same sex- gay rights issues would catch hold the same way on the issues affecting the economy.
All I know is that Republicans are acting like they bear no responsibility for the failed eight years of the Bush Administration. The GOP is acting like their failed policies that caused the largest economic collapse of our financial industry and changed the world as we know it was not their fault. And blacks are crying foul at President Obama and threatening to boycott or sit out the election.
This is not the time for a sit out. This is a time for a sit in. Every voting age African American needs to occupy every voting booth in this country come November. While gays are making same sex a civil rights issue, every African American—gay and straight needs to remember their civil rights history. And that means vote like your ancestors lives depended on it. In reality, their lives did depend on it. And our lives now depend on it—now more than ever. Prince sang Party Like It’s 1999. African Americans need to vote like it’s 1899. It might as well be 1899 if Mitt Romney gets elected.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.