Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Putting an African-American face on gay marriage

I got this from Jonathan Capehart of  The Washington Post:

A new documentary looks at the black-gay civil rights divide by centering on Massachusetts Rep. Byron Rushing (D) during the commonwealth’s push to legalize same-sex marriage. The African American legislator eloquently weaves the two movements together in the 15-minute film. Following a screening of the movie last month, I moderated a panel discussion at Aaron Davis Hall in New York City that looked at the marriage equality push in New York state from a black perspective. The panel was filled with luminaries, including media and fashion mogul Russell Simmons. But the star of the event was a soft-spoken man named David Wilson.

In the film, Wilson tells the heartbreaking story about the death of his then-partner. The trauma of finding him lying in the driveway. The terror of being arrested by the police on suspicion of breaking and entering or assault and battery before neighbors convinced police otherwise. The indignity of being denied information by the hospital because he was a legal stranger to his partner. Only after his partner’s 75-year-old mother told the hospital who Wilson was did they inform him that his partner of 13 years was dead on arrival.
Wilson swore he’d never go through that again. And he would find love again. In 2003, he and Rob Compton became one of the seven same-sex couples to sue for and win the right to marry in the 2003 landmark Goodridge vs. the Department of Health case.

In the panel discussion, Wilson gives a powerful reason “to put a black face on the Marriage Equality movement," including this heartbreaking passage of what happened at his church when he came out at age 37:

I was married to a woman, had three beautiful children and finally came to terms with being gay at the age of 37. My ex-wife and three teen age children supported my coming out process as did my Mother and Father. My mother met with her pastor to ask for his support and to also ask that he stop preaching hatred from his pulpit. My mother and father had been a member of their Black church for over 40 years but the pastor said he could not support her or me. My mother was forced to leave her church because she could not bear the hurtful messages delivered every Sunday. When my mother had a heart attack 15 years later with five subsequent congestive heart failures, she came to my house for her final 11 weeks under hospice care. She asked me to call her home church Pastor to ask him to come and [have] prayer with her. He refused and sent his associate pastor. When my mother passed away, she wanted to be buried from her home church but her pastor agreed to the funeral but refused to allow me to deliver my mother’s eulogy. After an all-out effort by my mother’s flower club, deaconess board and ladies club, he reluctantly agreed that I could deliver the eulogy from the lowest of the three pulpits, which I was willing to do for my mother.

After my mother’s funeral, my dad never went back to his or any church with the exception of the day that he attended my legal wedding to my husband, Rob Compton. Dad was 89 and could not have been more proud of our role as plaintiffs in the Massachusetts marriage law suit which resulted in the right for us to marry.

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