Race, Faith and Marriage Equality - Dialogue at Howard University
April 5, 2010
The following post is from Joey Gaskins, HRC’s diversity student coordinator:
This past Tuesday, LGBT students at Howard University hosted “Legalize Gay: A Dialogue on Race, Faith and Marriage” – a panel during their first “CASCADE Week.” The panel was part of a weeklong pride celebration hosted by Howard University’s gay/straight alliance, the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality (CASCADE). Sponsored by Campus Progress, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign’s HBCU Program, the event focused on creating dialogue about the new marriage equality law here in the District of Columbia. Many haven’t yet realized, but Washington, DC is the first majority black municipality that has made marriage equality a reality. This is significant because we often hear that racial minorities do not support equal rights for the LGBT community. Panelist and new media director at Freedom to Marry Michael Crawford highlighted the work of activists in the “trenches” of the city. From his perspective organizing people of color in their own neighborhoods, speaking to them one on one, and being willing to meet people where they were was essential to the win in Washington, DC. Also on the panel, Rev. Candy Holmes, an affirming minster with the Metropolitan Community Church and newlywed, spoke about what marriage equality meant to her as both a person of faith, and a person of color. Her testimony was profound and personal. She was joined by Howard University student Genesis Nunlee, one of the students leading Howard University toward a more inclusive environment through her activism. Genesis brought a dimension of youth to the panel that is often not considered when speaking about marriage equality. From her experiences on the Howard University campus there is so much educating that still needs to be done. I would like to extend a special thank you to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton who made the keynote address at the event. Besides her notoriety, Rep. Norton has been a strong ally for the LGBT community and was instrumental in bringing marriage equality to the District. As she made clear during her speech, marriage is a right that should be afford to all loving couples, and she “supports anyone willing to take the risk.” People of color and people of faith will play an important role in securing LGBT rights. With the changing demographics of America and rabid opposition from the far right, these are conversations we must begin to have openly and honestly. The Human Rights Campaign is committed to being a part of these conversations, and “Legalize Gay: A Dialogue on Race, Faith and Marriage” was a show of that commitment. The fact is that we can bring marriage equality to a majority black city with the overwhelming support of the community, and we did it by having conversations like the one we had at Howard University.
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