The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest African American civil rights group, voted Saturday to support a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage at its board meeting in Miami, Fla.
"The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people," said Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the Board of Directors of the NAACP, in a statement. "We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law."
And Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, said in a statement, "Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP's support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people. The well-funded right wing organizations who are attempting to split our communities are no friend to civil rights, and they will not succeed."
The 103-year-old NAACP, whose primary objective has been to fight for and support civil rights for African Americans, now finds itself on the opposite side of the gay marriage issue than many of the nation's most influential black clergymen who have called on President Obama to denounce his support of same-sex marriage.
Long-time civil rights leader the Rev. Bill Owens has organized the Coalition of African American Pastors. The coalition is asking the president to reverse his recent decision to support same-sex marriage and encourages more black ministers to speak out in support of traditional marriage.
About a dozen African-American pastors gathered Thursday in Memphis, Tenn., for a press conference to protest the comparison of same-sex marriage with the civil rights struggles of blacks.
"The group of black clergy and civil rights leaders say it is time to turn the tide against the 'hijacking' of the civil rights movement," said Owens, the coalition's elder statesman and organizer, in an earlier interview with CP. Owens is also a veteran of the civil rights movement who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"A 50-year-old can only read about the struggles and protests of the civil rights era, but some of us who are older have the battle scars to prove it. And the rights we fought so hard to acquire did not include same-sex marriage."
This isn't the first time the NAACP has taken a public stance on issues regarding sexual orientation. Over the last couple of years it has spoken out in opposition to California's Proposition 8, the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by former President Bill Clinton, and most recently, the successful attempt in North Carolina to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
It is yet unclear how President Obama's support of same-sex marriage will impact the majority of the nation's black voters, but some Democratic pundits are concerned it could decrease turnout in such key states as Ohio and North Carolina.
"I don't know if it will be a 'make-or-break' issue or not," said Owens. "But this is not good for President Obama."
The NAACP will hold a formal press conference in Baltimore on Monday to discuss its new stance on gay marriage.