This week, the NAACP celebrates its centennial, marking 100 years as the nation's oldest and arguably most high profile civil rights organization. President Barack Obama will address the conference on Thursday.
Long indifferent on LGBT rights and concerns, the NAACP has made some strides under Benjamin Todd Jealous, the newest and youngest president of the civil rights group. In February, for the first time ever, the national board of the NAACP took a position on marriage equality and called for the overturn of California's Proposition 8. And of course, National Board Chair Julian Bond—who has an excellent record on LGBT rights and marriage equality. But when will the group take a national position on gay rights and marriage, CNN's T.J. Holmes asked jealous over the weekend.
Jealous told CNN: "We don't take a position on that nationally."
JEALOUS: We have been steadfast advocates for the basic civil rights of gay people, making sure that, for instance, hate-crimes protection is extended to gay people. ... We want to make sure that - that our children and our family members who are gay is - basic civil rights and human rights are protected.
JEALOUS: That's a very tense debate inside our association. You know, and there have been branches and state conferences - like, for instance, in California and San Francisco, come out very clearly on the issue. There are others, some of our national board members for instance, from the Midwest, who have taken an entirely opposite position. We're a democratic, small 'd,' organization, where issues are debated until a consensus is reached. And that one is very much still under debate amongst the membership of the association.
It's also worth noting despite the NAACP's recent movement on Prop 8 and August Provost—the black gay sailor found brutally murdered at Camp Pendleton—the organization is still largely controlled by the black churches and ministers. Such as Rev. Keith Ratliff, Iowa's leading black pastor and the anti-gay chair of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter. Perhaps this explains why there are no seminars or topics on LGBT rights at this year's conference, and, HIV/AIDS is only mentioned as far as its impact on black women.
AFTER THE JUMP, via Queer Isn't It?, watch Benjamin Jealous discuss the NAACP, gay rights and marriage equality. There is also some personal reflection by Jealous on growing up biracial, and, having a longtime friend who is gay (or transgender?). Jealous tells Holmes: "I've seen the homophobia he experienced in the black community. I've seen the racism he experienced in the gay community. No one should have to hide their identity."