D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), the only council member to vote against the bill today to legalize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, predicted today there could be a "civil war" in the District if the Council decides to take up a broader gay marriage bill later this year.
"All hell is going to break lose," Barry said while speaking to reporters. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."
Barry made his remarks a few hours after a group of same-sex marriage opponents, led by black ministers, caused uproar in the Wilson Building after the Council voted 12 to 1 to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. They caused such a ruckus that security guards and police had to clear the hallway. The protesters shouted that council members who voted for the bill will face retribution at the polls.
Although he has been a longtime supporter of gay rights, Barry said he voted against the bill to satisfy his constituents in Southeast Washington.
"What you've got to understand is 98 percent of my constituents are black and we don't have but a handful of openly gay residents," Barry said. "Secondly, at least 70 percent of those who express themselves to me about this are opposed to anything dealing with this issue. The ministers think it is a sin, and I have to be sensitive to that."
It has to be frustrating to the gay rights movement that despite their continued effort to link their "fight" for gay "marriage" to the civil rights fights of African-Americans which preceded it, the African-American community by and large rejects this conflation, and has shown itself to be even more opposed to gay marriage than other ethnic groups are.
But I think it's very understandable that the African-American community would, indeed, reject this tendency of the gay rights movement to see themselves as following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or other civil rights champions. To a people that once knew slavery, and then knew decades of unequal treatment and open discrimination and violence against them based only on the color of their skin, the idea that two rather wealthy and successful men, say, might adopt the language of victimhood and say courageously to each other "We shall overcome!" as they plan a wedding even more lavish than anything Liza Minnelli has ever had and contemplate a move to Boston (if they could just deal with the climate, that is) is just a little bit insulting.
Moreover, the African-American community has had to deal firsthand with the fallout of the destruction of marriage. Fatherlessness is rampant; children grow up suffering the effects of poverty and family instability and so many similar ills which settle upon communities where a family is a loose assortment of independent adults and some children who might be biologically related to some of them, but who have no connection at all to the others. The decline of marriage has been devastating to African-Americans; while the out of wedlock birth rate is now at 40%, there is a big difference between such groups as Asian and white Americans whose rates are approximately 20 and 30 percent, respectively, and African-Americans, where nearly 70% of all children are born to unmarried mothers.
Anyone who expects the African-American community to cheer for a societal innovation that will have the effect of further weakening and destroying marriage is not looking at the reality of life for so many in that community. It's a little unrealistic to expect African-Americans to jump on the gay "marriage" bandwagon, or to agree that keeping two men or two women from marrying is exactly like forcing African-Americans to sit at the back of the bus. There's no real equivalence, here, and I don't think that the African-American community is wrong to fear an even greater destruction of marriage than what they've already seen in their families.
The truth is, though, that the pro-gay "marriage" supporters really don't care if the traditional family is further destroyed, in the African-American community or elsewhere. The attitude I've encountered says that since heterosexuals have been unable to preserve marriage, it no longer matters if homosexuals destroy it completely; we've lost our ability to complain credibly about the matter, according to them.
But making that argument is a little like saying that since the house is already on fire, it won't matter if we throw gasoline on the conflagration. The rapidity with which marriage will cease to matter as a social institution will hurt all of us, in some future gay "marriage" world; but the people who will suffer most are those who already have to deal with rampant out-of-wedlock births and familial instability, and whose children are already feeling the effects of growing up without both a mother and a father. It's not surprising that even a liberal politician like Marion Berry would hesitate to alienate his constituents who can already see the smoldering embers, and who would like the government to pour water, not incendiary solutions, onto the rising flames.