By Imani Williams
Exactly where are black folk on the same-sex marriage issue post election 2004? After being the topic of discussion for months up to and subsequently following the November elections, talk has simmered to a low and it appears that it’s business as usual.
As I talk to people on my daily walks about where things are headed one thing is certain. The topic of same-sex marriage in the black community is not a pressing issue. As we continue to celebrate Black History Month I think that the topic needs to stay at the forefront. It’s true with so many other things to occupy our time and thoughts the topic of marriage for SGL folk may not be at the top of our list. The reasons are numerous and include: folk just trying to make it, threats of layoffs and companies closing, trying to stay one foot ahead in the day to day struggle to put food on the table and these days to keep gas in the tank. Never far behind is the popular opinion of the black church in the city of Detroit and the thoughts of many Bible toting, verse quoting, ‘I can only love some folk,’ Christians.
With so many people unwilling to have the discussion as to why everyone deserves to be treated fairly there remains plenty of work to. It is almost unconscionable to require one to pay into a system designed to provide for those who contribute to it and then segregate people out and deny them their just due based on whom they love.
I haven’t seen so many people go along with how a family is defined since slavery. That’s something that really bothers me. Black folk fought so hard and long to be able to marry with dignity that I question how do we then participate in the persecution of a loving family that will provide for one another as well as the children in that household? How does that work?
Since so many folk are moved by numbers and what they imply, let’s look at some hard data and how SGL people of color in Detroit contribute to the economic system and keep the cogs turning only to be told that they don’t count. That message has come from many government officials, CEO’s and stockholders and has trickled down to community leaders and those vested with helping us stay afloat emotionally and physically including insurance companies, spiritual houses and, in many cases, our own family.
There are more than a few African American same-sex households in the city of Detroit. A special thanks to John Kavanaugh for pulling and posting the new report from the Policy Institute out of New York and to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (www.TheTaskForce.org) for the info. Here are some of their findings:
Fact Sheet: Black Same-Same Sex Households in the Detroit, Michigan Metropolitan Area
The US Census counts 2,337 black gay and lesbian couples in the Detroit area. This represents 2.8 percent of all black same-sex couples.
Of couples in the U.S. 22 percent of all same-sex households in the Detroit area are black same-sex households (i.e. at least one partner is black).
• The average age of individuals in black same-sex couples was 38.
• The median household income for black male same-sex couples was $54,300. The median household income for black female same-sex couples was $44,650.
• The median personal income for individuals in black same-sex couples was $18,900.
• Sixty percent of black female same-sex couples and 38 percent of black male same-sex couples are raising children.
• Fifty percent of black female same-sex couples and 33 percent of black male same-sex couples are raising biological children.
• Ten percent of black female same-sex couples and six percent of black male same-sex couples are raising non-biological (fostered or adopted) children.
If you look at the numbers and contributions being made in the community of Detroit alone by African American SGL people it certainly seems that we have a right to domestic partnership benefits, marriage and anything else that contributors to society are entitled to. The whole gay rights/civil rights issue remains sticky at best. Does it not serve a better purpose to honor human rights?
The struggle continues and is likely to for some time. Black folk in general have to be more loving to each other; this means speaking out against hatred and bigotry. If we all do a little each and every day by doing things like writing letters and going to school board meetings because we care about the well-being and environment of all students, not just those who are straight, we make a difference. With 60 percent of black female same-sex couples and 33 percent of black male same-sex couples raising children it behooves everyone to ensure safe inclusive learning environments. It is not even just about us, there are generations coming behind us that need us to participate in the fight today, for their tomorrow.
By respecting and honoring community and all those residing within, we create change.
Imani Williams can be reached at [email protected].