New Jersey’s African-American LGBT community is on the front lines of so many battles for justice and equality, from fighting violent hate crime to improving education and treatment for our brothers and sisters with HIV/AIDS; from fighting racial and economic discrimination to bringing about the end of marriage discrimination that affects African-American same-sex couples.
Our state is blessed with a number of organizations doing extraordinary work for the African-American LGBT community. They include the Newark Pride Alliance, the Newark-Essex Pride Coalition, the African-American Office of Gay Concerns , the the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, NJCRI’s Project WOW! Youth Center, the Sakia Gunn Film Project, and the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation.
Two churches with significant numbers of African-American LGBT congregants are the Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church in Newark and the Unity Fellowship Church in New Brunswick.
Garden State Equality has a formidable African-American Caucus. If you are a member of the African-American community and would like to be involved in Garden State Equality, email us at AfricanAmerican@GardenStateEquality.org with your name and phone number or call us at (973) GSE-LGBT.
The hate-crime murders of African-American lesbians Sakia Gunn and Shani Baraka in May and August 2003 respectively became rallying cries to achieve safety, justice and equality for all. LGBT community leaders in Newark and their allies, among our state’s greatest heroes, have worked tirelessly to fill the void of sufficient government action to prevent hate crimes. In 2009, Newark’s LGBT community persuaded the city council and Mayor Cory Booker to enact a law creating a new city commission on LGBT issues.
The discrimination and violence which the African-American LGBT community faces must be a concern of everyone. Among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans nationwide, 14 percent are African-American. According to the U.S. Census, approximately 20 percent of African Americans are uninsured.
In light of the devastating percentage of people of color who don’t have access to health insurance, including people living with HIV/AIDS, New Jersey clearly has a sizable community that cannot afford to barred from health care access because employers won’t provide equal health benefits to civil union partners as those employers provide to married couples.
Marriage equality would bring would not only help deal with the economic discrimination that same-sex partners of color face, but it would also be a powerful force in changing the culture of discrimination.
As Dr. Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs at the National Black Justice Coalition, testified before the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission: “Civil unions are separate and unequal. Haven’t we African-Americans already suffered enough of that? Arguments against same-sex marriage today are very similar to those used to create and expand interracial marriage bans decades ago.” Click here to read more of Dr. Rhue’s writing about the relationship between African-American civil rights and LGBT civil rights.
Congressman John Lewis, who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, has said: “It is time to say forthrightly that the government’s exclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from marriage officially degrades them and their families. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation.”