Friday, November 21, 2008

Proposition 8 hostility 'got out of hand,' Assembly speaker says

Find this article on-line here.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said today she is "appalled" at the hostility that has been directed at African-Americans since the passage of Proposition 8.

According to exit polls, 70 percent of black voters supported the gay marriage ban measure, which has caused friction between gays and blacks.

But during a meeting with The Bee's Capitol bureau, Bass said that lost in the post-mortems over Proposition 8 is that black support for the measure was "a generational issue" that divided younger and older African-Americans.

The Los Angeles Democrat, who is California's highest-ranking African-American elected official, said she was "really appalled at how quickly (the issue) was racialized, and it wasn't even analyzed."

"I have friends in Los Angeles, who are African-Americans in the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, and they went out to protest the vote and had racial epithets hurled at them," Bass said. "A couple of them were fearful and they left because they were threatened."

Bass, who opposed Proposition 8, said she was "appalled at how quickly some members of the LBGT leadership went there, as opposed to saying, 'what did we or didn't we do in the campaign?'"

The No on 8 campaign, she said, failed to do enough campaigning in the black community "and the LBGT leadership is looking back at that."

"I do think that people have pulled back a way from some of the hostility - I mean it got out of hand," she said.

Bass said she was contacted by some LBGT "leaders who asked me if I would be helpful in terms of negotiating and mediating."

"I declined because I felt that they were bypassing black LBGT leadership," she said.
The speaker said "there's a lot of healing that needs to take place."

"But I think the first place that the healing needs to happen is in the LBGT community - white and black," she said.

Bass said leaders in the gay community need to do a better job of outreach in the black community.

She said that while campaigning for an Assembly candidate in San Diego, she was surprised when a group of African-American ministers told her they supported Proposition 8 because of "liability" concerns.

The speakers said the ministers were worried they would be sued by gay church members if they declined to marry them.

But in a decision in May that sanctioned gay marriage in California - before it was repealed by the voters - the state Supreme Court ruled "no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples."

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