By Devin Barrington-Ward
As a black gay man I find myself in a constant struggle as it concerns my loyalty to the mainstream LGBT agenda, specifically on the subject of gay marriage.
On one hand, I see the benefits of fighting relentlessly for the fundamental right to marry whomever your heart so desires. Those benefits are displayed in sweeping marriage equality victories in Maine, Maryland and Washington last November giving millions of LGBT people their right to marry. Those benefits are further displayed in the unions of beautiful couples like Ravi Perry and Paris Prince, the first black gay couple to be featured in Jet Magazine. There is a certain level of pride knowing that their union and the unions of so many other loving LGBT couples are honored by the nine states along with the District of Columbia that recognize gay marriage. And with President Obama and even some prominent republicans like John Huntsman urging the Supreme Court to rule on the side of marriage equality, all this progression does bring about certain sense of excitement. These advancements are largely attributed to the hard work and dedication of national LGBT organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and countless others.
I often find myself pondering whether the LGBT movement is becoming one based on entitlement and privilege. While I would never demonize those who fight so passionately for the right to marry, I would be remiss if I did not remind the greater LGBT community that we have a moral responsibility to fight for the less of these, especially within our own community. In Illinois, where the lobbying effort for the passage of gay marriage is expected to attract big dollars, organizations like the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimated that of the nearly 11,000 homeless youth that as many as 40% of them are LGBT. Where is their lobbying effort? Where do they find themselves in the agenda? Are they not important too? It is an unconscionable injustice that the minority, young and poor in our community is experiencing a unprecedented socioeconomic, public health and civil rights catastrophe and we still do not have a gay agenda that is a true reflection of the entire needs of the community. We must ask ourselves will this movement just serve the needs of the privilege, while ignoring the needs of those suffering the most?
I challenge mainstream LGBT and human rights organizations in 2013 to take notice to this epidemic with more than lip service but meaningful and swift action and advocacy, the same used to win our community the right to marry in some states. And fortunately national LGBT organization will not have to address this monumental task alone. Minority LGBT leadership and student organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition, Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative, Spelman’s Afrekete and Morehouse’s Safe Space are all waiting in the wings to be engaged but not as axillary factions but as full and meaningful partners to help save the constituencies we are all responsible for fighting for. The gay rights agenda as it stands marginalizes those who need us most. Our beloved community must alter the current agenda, not to abandon the fight for marriage equality, but to advance it. To show the world that our fight for marriage equality comes from the pure belief that our community is a family, a family united by struggle, and a family who takes care of their own.