The effects of racism on the Massachusetts marriage debate
The following post was written by Irene Monroe. It originally appeared on The Huffington Post under the title, “Racial Divide in LGBTQ Communities Could Have Derailed Marriage Debate in Massachusetts.”
By: Irene Monroe
Marriage equality in Massachusetts hits its 10-year anniversary on May 17. As we reflect on this momentous occasion, I’m proud of the indefatigable energy and genius that made it possible.
But I didn’t always feel that way, and my opinions, and those of LGBTQ communities of color nationwide, were expressed weekly in my column “The Religion Thang” in the now-defunct Boston-based LGBTQ paper InNewsweekly.
In February 2005 I was reporting that tensions here in Massachusetts were growing, and that, once again, there was a color line. The issue was marriage equality for same-sex couples. With the state legislature about to rev up again to debate the issue, and with very little time for white queer religious and political machines to colorize what had been, since its inception, a white movement, voices from African-American queer organizations and communities of color were speaking up about our absence from the conversation.
To the surprise of white LGBTQ organizations, both the LGBTQ African-American community and the straight African-American community had much to say about the white queer political machine’s appropriation of the language of the black civil rights movement, done without participation by people of color.
How the marriage debate should have been framed had not been given considerable concern. Communicating in a way that spoke truth to various LGBTQ communities of color and classes was not even considered.
The same-sex marriage debate had brought much consternation and polarization between black and white LGBTQ communities. Much of the finger pointing during the genesis of the ill-framed discussion was aimed at GLAD, which some viewed as a lily-white organization. Many people of color felt that GLAD replicated many of the same race and class divisions present in our federal judicial system.
While the marriage debate was strategically framed as an upper- to middle-class LGBTQ family issue, people of color felt that the “strategy won in court, but not in the court of public opinion,” Jacquie Bishop, a Dorchester-based African-American lesbian activist, told me.
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