The American Prospect has an interesting article up about the risks that the NAACP took to oppose Proposition 8.
For Pastor Amos Brown, the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, opposition to Prop. 8 had serious consequences. Several weeks after the election, a significant number of donors had pulled out of the local NAACP's fundraising dinner because of his opposition to Prop 8. Brown was angry, but he wouldn't back down from his position.
They lost thousands in donations, the article implies, and I'm sure there were some that they lost from people who weren't at that dinner. But the article says that NAACP president Ben Jealous stepped in to support the California chapter of the NAACP and fundraise to replace the lost money.
While it might not sound like a whole lot of money, it's still a big risk. Large nonprofit corporations like the NAACP and HRC don't live on good will or progressive politics alone. They live or die by their donors, many of whom get turned off whenever the org even appears to be deviating from their mission. When an organization to take a stand against their main source of support and reach out to other groups, they deserve recognition and thanks.
The NAACP's moves against prop 8 - supporting legislation to overturn it and opposing it back during campaign season - weren't just idle word; they ended up being large steps and helped other orgs come out in our favor in California:
Jason Bartlett, deputy director of the National Black Justice Coalition, was excited by the NAACP's move: "It's the boldest thing I've seen in some time, definitely the boldest thing that they've done on gay rights. ... It's historic." Bartlett argues that the NAACP intervening on behalf of gay rights will give other black leaders and organizations cover to do the same. At a meeting of the Caucus of Black State Legislators in December 2008, Bartlett, who is also a state legislator in Connecticut, unsuccessfully tried to get the CBSL to take a position on gay rights. He was rebuffed.
"An executive board member said, 'We will not be the first mainstream black organization to take a position.'" Bartlett says. "In other words, we're not going alone."
While these are serious risks that the NAACP took that directly help us, it's part of seeing the bigger picture and recognizing that none of these issues stands alone. As Pastor Amos Brown, who ran the fundraiser mentioned before the jump, put it:
"We don't live in a theocracy," Brown told me when I spoke with him in November . Brown, who opposes banning same-sex marriage but also says he wouldn't perform a same-sex marriage ceremony in his church, says his dedication to civil rights and opposition to Prop. 8 come from a similar place. He recalls first seeing a picture of Emmitt Till, a youth who was lynched in 1955 for supposedly making a pass at a white woman.
"When I saw that picture," Brown says, "I promised God myself, never would I be mean to people who were different."
I know that there will be a few people thinking that, after the majority of African Americans voted for Prop 8 by anyone's count, this support isn't that deep, I'd argue the opposite: for an organization to know that the people they represent need to be moved forward on an issue and still take a stand in favor of it is actual leadership. It only makes the risk bigger and less likely to happen, but more important to recognize when it does.
Of course, I'd hope that this support will be reciprocated from major LGBT orgs.