In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, argues that while the stories of oppression and injustice against gays are different from those of black people, they are just as valid. He says that is why both groups should fight together for civil rights, including marriage equality.

โ€ฆ Terms like "gay is the new black" are inherently disrespectful to the black experience in America. These types of misleading slogans obscure the uniqueness of both groups' struggles in an attempt to make a neat and tidy analogy. After all, gays and lesbians were never enslaved or subject to the harsh Jim Crow tactics of oppression, lynching, and intimidation in the way that blacks were.

And yet while their story of oppression and injustice is not the same as ours, it is equally valid. African-Americans recognize injustice when we see it. Gays and lesbians have been incarcerated, brutalized, lobotomized, raped, castrated, and robbed of their jobs, families and children.

With the 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly now under way, African-Americans in Maryland will soon play a pivotal role in the effort to advance equality for gays and lesbians as the legislature considers granting marriage rights to thousands of families and couples in the state.


In Maryland, gays and lesbians are engaging in a fight for their civil rights โ€” for marriage equality. And we must not let rhetoric that seeks to appropriate our experience blind us to a simple fact: that while the journeys of our two communities may be different, our ultimate goals are the same.

Marriage equality is not only a matter of civil rights; it's one of human rights and basic dignity. To deny familial and spousal benefits to millions of gay and lesbian Americans โ€” benefits that are taken as a given for straight Americans โ€” is to undermine the basic family unit that we in the black community have worked so hard to preserve and advance.


Read Wade Henderson's entire op-ed at the Baltimore Sun.