Bush2You know it’s an election year when gays become the topic of conversation at the White House.

Not satisfied with dividing the entire country over immigration reform, for extra added insurance, President Bush has decided to bring up the issue of banning marriage for lesbians and gays…again.

In his weekly Presidential address, the President reconfirmed his commitment to banning marriage for gays in America.  Citing that “marriage is the most enduring and important human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith,” he went on to say that, “an amendment to the Constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our Nation with no other choice.”

We’ve been down this road before and it wasn’t pretty. 

In 2004, thirteen states, including Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia and Michigan, passed amendments to their constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  The Black leadership allowed right wing conservatives to come in and message directly to African Americans on gay marriage and supporting the re-election of President Bush because he would protect America’s morals.  Seemingly, Black pastors allowed their congregations to be bought with faith-based money in the guise of protecting the institution of marriage.

And where did all of that get us?  Absolutely nowhere.

There is still a disproportionately number of Black Americans that are still unemployed, disenfranchised, uneducated and uninsured.

Two years ago, the Black leadership failed African Americans by not exposing Bush’s political pandering for what it was.  Choosing instead to focus on the war on terrorism, the economy, education, healthcare and affirmative action, they didn’t see gay marriage as an issue they were ready to tackle.   

We simply cannot afford to have that attitude today.

Like in 2004, but even more so today, there is simply too much at stake for us to be bamboozled into taking up an agenda that is not our own or in our best interests.

Look around you.

Are lesbians and gays the cause of the gang violence that is suffocating your neighborhoods?  Are gays the reason why you can’t afford decent health care?  Are gays the reason that your child’s school is under funded and that the minimum wage hasn’t been raised?

No.

Just like you, gays are trying to make it day to day and provide for their families.  Black gays who tend to live where Blacks live in general and have the same economic characteristics as their heterosexual counterparts, are dealing with the same issues that most Blacks are.

We cannot afford to alienate any part of our community going into the 2008 Presidential election.  We need every person at the table, heterosexual and gay. 

We are going to have to get over our homophobia as a community.  We all have a relative, co-worker, or friend who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 

And no matter how you feel personally about gays, at the end of the day, they are not the source of what’s wrong with this country, President Bush and his right wing conservatives are.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Black Church and our traditional Black institutions like the NAACP are going to play a crucial role in exactly how far the GOP is able to sink its tentacles into our communities.  If they continue to be silent on this issue and still see it as a non-issue while the rest of the country uses our votes to further their political agenda, then we are doomed to see a repeat of four years ago.

You don’t have to support equal rights for gays to not support the GOP’s bigoted agenda.  It just means that this time around, we aren’t falling for the old divide and conquer scheme.

Marriage bans, like immigration, continue to be one of those issues that GOP political strategists love to pull out their cloaks when all else fails.  As Blacks, we know firsthand who stands to benefit the most from our community being divided, and it’s not us.

In closing, I pose the following questions: Was the judge who presided over Loving v. Virginia, the landmark case that allowed whites and Blacks to get married, an activist judge?  Were the courts being activists when it decided that Black children could go to school with their white counterparts?  Was it activism extending the right to vote to Blacks?  No.  It was an attempt to try and right the wrongs this country had committed against a group of people.  Sound familiar?