Dear Marriage Equality Advocates:
There is an irony in the SCOTUS rulings in the last two days. The irony is grounded in the fact that gay marriage is grounded in the spirit of the black freedom struggle yet that promise was eroded yesterday. The SCOTUS has ruled that a key provision of the blood stained Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional then ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional.
As queer ally, I am wondering if “I took my hand off the plow” or “my eyes off the prize”. By taking a critical position of my church, at times my own community, and nation for its discrimination against queer folks, all the while the hard fought struggles that expanded democratic opportunity are under constant attack.
Admittedly, I am part of a generation that has often been disappointed if not held disdain for the civil rights generation. We sit in our contextual comfort and lambast them for not being revolutionary enough. The merger reforms of voting rights and affirmative action have been eroded in the last two days. And I am troubled in my soul by both the hubris of the SCOTUS and my own generational arrogances. So to those elders who risked life and limb for access to the democratic project, had cigarettes put on their face so I could vote, and risked their careers in supporting “merger reforms”, I want to apologize.
Equally, I have supported the rites and rights of queer folks for over a decade. There is a strong possibility that I will lose my credentials in the Church of God in Christ for supporting the issue, which would be a great personal cost because my grandfather and great grandfather were ordained in this tradition that I love. However, having risked my ordination credentials and lost churches for lobbying with Human Rights Campaign for gay marriage, I appreciate the fact the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement against the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act.
But it is not enough. I do not feel like we all won today. In fact, I must confess that I have shown up far more for gay marriage advocates than they have shown up for us. The complicit silence of gay marriage advocates on issues of race and class oppression is deafening. There must be reciprocity in solidarity.
As a straight black man, I feel less safe in the United States than I have ever felt. I am fighting a deep sense of regret for risking all on the behalf of gay marriage and God knows I do not want to feeI that way. It is morally wrong but very real in my soul. I know it was the right thing to do because I felt called by the tradition of the black freedom struggle and my God to do so. Perhaps, if there is such a thing, I have “believer’s remorse”.
I am haunted by a sense of emptiness. For all of the gay folks in my family, those radical queer folks that I have struggled along side and gone to jail with, I celebrate your victory today but I something in me want let me celebrate with you, today. It is not envy, I pray but rather a concrete fear for my being as a black man in the American empire. An erosion of the very rights that created the context for the LGBTQI movement should make us all have knots in our stomachs. Nevertheless, I will continue to perform gay weddings and struggle along side and party with radical queer activists all the while struggle for the basic right to vote. These last two days in a word is “tragicomic”.
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is an author, documentary filmmaker, public intellectual, organizer, pastor and theologian. Considered one of the foremost religious leaders of his generation, Rev. Sekou is the founding Senior Minister of The Freedom Church of New York City. His newest collection of writings, Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Religion and the Future of Democracy was publish in February 2012