NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous Statement on Marriage Equality

As some of you may know, the NAACP has opposed proposed anti-marriage equality laws on a number of occasions.  This effort has been led by State Conferences in places like North Carolina and California.  Indeed, I would like to highlight the leadership that State Conference Presidents like Rev. William Barber in North Carolina and Alice Huffman in California – both states where the NAACP opposed Ballot Initiatives meant to prohibit marriage equality.  As a national Association we also opposed the Defense of Marriage Act as far back as the mid-1990s.

So what has really changed and why this statement now?

What has changed is that this is the first time that we have made a full statement on marriage equality that goes beyond the circumstances of any one proposed law or any one state.  We feel it is important that everyone understand our commitment to equality under the Constitution and to marriage equality specifically.

Marriage equality for the NAACP goes at least as far back as the Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967.  In the year before she died, Mildred Loving, who successfully sued to end legally sanctioned marriage inequality based on race, wrote a powerful piece which ended – and I quote:

I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life.  I support the freedom to marry for all.  That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

We make this statement today because it is the legacy and responsibility of the NAACP to speak up on the civil rights issues of our times.  We are both proud of our history and challenged by it -- Challenged to never allow threats to equality for all people under the law to go uncontested.

As marriage equality has expanded to an ever increasing number of states, other states have taken to once again enshrining discrimination in their Constitutions.  At the same time, Members of Congress have taken again to using budget votes and other tricks to restrict marriage equality.

We want to be on record that the NAACP now firmly opposes all efforts to restrict marriage equality.  We will oppose threats to the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal rights under the law in any state where this issue is raised.

And we will follow our historic mission to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of all persons.  This means that we will oppose all efforts by Members of Congress or any Administration to enshrine discrimination in the laws of our great country.

Finally, let me say that this is one of the key civil rights struggles of our time.  We at the NAACP understand that with all such struggles, there are conversations that happen at dinner tables, among families, and across our communities.  These conversations are between good people who are looking to their own hearts to figure out what to believe and how to act.  We respect that this is how change is ultimately made.  Indeed it is the context in which the NAACP has fought for civil rights throughout our history.

Civil marriage, like all civil rights provided by the government, must be provided equally to all Americans.  The NAACP has been making the case for equality for 103 years, and we will continue to do so throughout our Association’s second century.