At last July’s annual NAACP convention in Los Angeles, NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous, who has long been pro-gay, stopped by the group’s panel on LGBT issues. The event got a little heated when No More Down Low TV executive producer Earnest Winborne asked Jealous, “‘How can the LGBT community take the NAACP seriously, when its current board members are out saying that gay rights are not civil rights’ – referring to current NAACP board member Rev. Keith Ratliff recent statement ‘Gay community stop hijacking the civil rights movement.’” (See Jealous’ response here.) NAACP Chair Emeritus Julian Bond, however, has repeatedly said HE thinks the LGBT struggle for equal right is a civil rights movement – at the NAACP convention, for instance, and at the Human Rights Campaign gala where he was honored. Since the July convention, Jealous and NAACP chapters have repeatedly spoken out about discrimination against LGBT people (such as the North Carolina chapter denouncing that state’s efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage).
One key issue pressed during the NAACP convention was the very serious attack on the right of people to vote - the SAME issue that civil rights leaders – including gay leader Bayard Rustin – fought and died for to secure the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On Friday, Jealous sent a message to supporters asking for help fighting this latest assault on the US Constitution, a fight important to us all:
Our freedom is under attack.
This year alone, 30 state legislatures have introduced bills intended to make it harder for you to exercise your right to vote. This effort is coordinated and targeted, and it is a throwback to a time that no one in our nation will want to revisit.
We will not stand by silently and let this happen. In states across the country, the NAACP and our allies are leading a wide-ranging coalition of organizations to make sure that your rights are protected. But we can’t do it without you.
Visit our new website, Stand4Freedom.org, and sign the pledge today:
What we’re facing is the most aggressive attempt to roll back voting rights in over a century.
A century ago, the target was the voting rights of Black voters and other voters of color. The goal was to eliminate their presence at the polls and accelerate the spread of racial segregation.
Today, the target is the voting rights of Black voters, Latino voters, Asian American Voters, Native American Voters, as well as students and young people, working women, and immigrants of ALL colors. These are also among the voting demographics that are most likely to support workers’ rights, equal opportunity, women’s rights, LBGT rights, environmental protection, and peace.
A century ago, the tactics were varied: grandfather clauses, poll tests, poll taxes, and racially motivated ex-felon voting bans.
Today, voter suppression also takes many forms, including attacks on early and Sunday voting to make voting harder for working people; photo ID requirements for voting and registration that introduce the first financial barrier to voting since the poll tax; and the same racially-motivated ex-felon bans.
Attacking voting rights was un-American then.
Attacking voting rights is un-American now.
We are organizing aggressively both online and offline. On December 10th, the United Nations Human Rights Day, we’re helping to organize a series of rallies and events all over the country. In New York City, we’ll be marching from the office of the Koch brothers, the right-wing funders of many of the anti-voting rights measures, to a rally at the United Nations Building.
It’s our duty, as members of the NAACP and as Americans, to defend the right to vote. Start now by signing the Stand For Freedom petition: http://www.stand4freedom.org/petition
Together, we will speak out, organize, and follow through in order to protect the voting rights of every American in every state.
Standing for Freedom,
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President & CEO