Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Rev. Eric Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), met with Washington, DC-area clergy on Tuesday at HRC’s offices to share his insight and experience building support for marriage equality as part of a week-long trip to DC.

Rev. Lee explained he naturally felt that marriage equality in California is a social justice issue. Initially when he was asked what he thought of same-sex couples marrying in Los Angeles, he immediately stood up in support and he explained to us how that affected his work in the African American community.

Taking that experience, he’s written a book: “Marriage Equality: Proposition 8, The California Divide.” In it Lee describes how he found himself at odds with the leaders of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference and many of his peers in the faith community last year after speaking out against California’s Proposition 8. Yet he refuses to remain quiet.

HRC’s Religion and Faith program pulled this meeting together so that African American clergy could talk with their peers in DC about what we face in discussing LGBT equality in the African American community.

Rev. Lee noted key issues that the LGBT community should work through as we talk more about working together for each other’s causes:

Remember to give homage to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s unproductive to just say the gay civil rights movement is like the African American civil rights movement. Respect that it’s different.

Begin to work with the African American community in the trenches on social justice issues such as: battling structural inequities in education; immigration issues; and supporting policies that help lower the economic discrepancies while we fight for ENDA.

Help combat the high school dropout rate for African Americans that too often leads young people into the criminal justice system. There are many social justice programs that can help lower the rate and the LGBT community can contribute to this cause.

Rev. Lee ended by saying “There is room to create real partnerships with African Americans and in return, they will support the LGBT community on marriage equality.” Rev. Lee knows that he is at odds with the leaders of the SCLC over his support for marriage equality, but he wanted the ministers today to know that there is room to feel comfortable working together on all of our issues.

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