Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

It is no secret that American families are under pressure. In fact, our families are imploding. The number of divorces for first time marriages have crossed the 50% mark, while over 60% of second marriages are likely to fail, and folks attempting their third marriage face odds of nearly 3 to 1 that they will be unable to make it work. What this means for the average family is that kids, houses, and bank accounts become contested territory for divorcing “Romeos and Juliets.” Thus our nation’s confidence in the institution of marriage is as compromised as our faith in our financial institutions.

As an African American who feels that black families have the most to lose if marriage is re-defined, I have been shocked by the lack of support that traditional civil rights organizations have given to the marriage amendment. Any true advocate for the health of black families should be incensed because of the decline of the black family. Many black social problems - from poverty to poor academic performance in school - are exacerbated by the curse of black fatherlessness and the soaring number of out-of-wedlock births. The entire institution of marriage could become functionally extinct in just a few decades.

A two-step strategy must be enacted by black leaders to save our community. We must strengthen existing marriages, while opposing the redefinition of marriage by gays and others. Against this backdrop, I cannot understand Julian Bond’s personal opposition to national marriage protection efforts. Earlier this year, the civil rights icon and Chairman of the NAACP made the following statement about the NAACP’s opinion of a marriage amendment, “(is) opposed every constitutional attempt or amendment to create these divisions among people based on their sexual orientation…It is divisive. It's harmful. It does not bring people together. It drives them apart.”

While on the surface, Bond has attempted to imply that the NAACP itself has taken no official position on the issue of same sex marriage, he has assumed a leadership role in the “Fairness for All Families Campaign” this year. This coalition developed a statewide strategy to defeat the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment which will appear on November’s ballot. Why such an unhealthy commitment to Florida?

Florida is influential in terms of national policy because of its wealth and dense population. Mr. Bond may also be concerned that pro marriage amendment voters may also vote against the traditional Democratic ticket including the presidency. In 2004 Kerry lost important black votes to President Bush in both Florida and Ohio because of the national concern about same sex marriage.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.