Today, the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People endorsed the rights of same-sex couples to marry, stating in a resolution that the national civil-rights organization "support[s] marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
Although NAACP leaders like former board chair and board member Julian Bond have been on the record as strong supporters of marriage equality, today's move represents the first time the organization took a position in support of marriage equality.
The full resolution, which former NAACP senior vice president Maxim Thorne wrote was passed with only two members of the 64-member board opposed, states:
The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the "political, education, social and economic equality" of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.
Thorne, who has worked for both the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted, "The NAACP Board of Directors has just endorsed marriage equality unequivocally. Only two opposed! An historic moment."
In a statement released by the NAACP, Roslyn Brock, NAACP board chair, said, "The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all people. We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law."
Benjamin Jealous, the president and CEO of the NAACP, added, "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 move by the group that bills itself as the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization comes 10 days after President Obama announced that he now believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
HRC president Joe Solmonese celebrated the news, saying in a statement, "We could not be more pleased with the NAACP's history-making vote today -- which is yet another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community. It's time the shameful myth that the African-American community is somehow out of lockstep with the rest of the country on marriage equality is retired -- once and for all. The facts and clear momentum toward marriage speak for themselves."
Quentin James, the national director of the Sierra Student Coalition, is a board member of the NAACP, and tweeted, "I've never been more proud to be a member of the NAACP Nat'l Board! #MarriageEquality #Progress #Forward."
Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, noted both the prominence of the NAACP -- and the effort uncovered earlier this year by the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples, to drive a wedge between black and gay voters.
"The NAACP has long been the nation's conscience and champion for an America where all share equally in the promise of liberty and justice for all," he tells Metro Weekly. "Today the NAACP resoundingly affirmed that the freedom to marry is a civil right and family value that belong to all of us, and that discriminatory barriers to marriage must fall. The toxic tactics of anti-gay groups like NOM to 'drive a wedge between blacks and gays' will be washed away in the wave of righteous affirmation."
An NAACP spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment on the two "no" votes.
[NOTE: This story was expanded, with the final update at 4:50 p.m.]