Diversity & Inclusion Includes Gays & Lesbians: Is Black Church Getting the Message?

Diversity and inclusion cannot exclude anyone—especially LGBT people. Some prominent members of the Black church, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, are pushing for equality, but others still don’t get it.

Diversity and inclusion cannot exclude anyone, an issue that has created great conflict in the Black church as the momentum for LGBT rights has increased.

Last week, after the announcement of President Obama’s historic endorsement of same-sex marriage, the Rev. Jesse Jackson led the public pronouncements for equality, calling this “a bold step in the right direction for equal protection under the law for all citizens” and saying he wished the president had also pushed for federal equality rights for LGBT people instead of leaving it up to the states.

Many other Black religious leaders are publicly agreeing, calling LGBT rights the current civil-rights battle. Two of these leaders are Rev. Delman Coates of Prince George’s County, Md., and Rev. Enoch Fuzz of Nashville, Tenn.

However, there remains a strong contingent of people in Black America who believe that same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs, including Pastor Jamal Bryant and Bishop Harry Jackson.

And there are others who are angered by the use of the term “civil rights.” Misperceptions abound; as one Black manager recently told us, “It’s not a civil-rights issue for them because they have a choice. I can’t change that I’m Black, but they don’t have to be gay.”

Black community support for same-sex marriages has increased, but not as rapidly as in the general population. Pew Center research shows that in 2001, 34 percent of whites and 32 percent of Blacks supported same-sex marriage. Today, 47 percent of whites and 39 percent of Blacks support it. And Black voters were instrumental in last week’s approval in North Carolina of a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage and restricting domestic-partner benefits.

How to Build Support for Diversity & Inclusion 

If your organization—or your church—isn’t supportive of equality for everyone, here are some tips garnered from the DiversityInc Top 50 on how to build an inclusive workplace.

  • Require cultural-competence diversity training. Mandatory training that includes factual, educational information on LGBT groups is a must. People who are educated are less likely to make statements like the one above. Eighty-six percent of The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity now require diversity training for their managers, compared with 78 percent five years ago. Sixty-eight percent require diversity training for their entire workforces, compared with 58 percent five years ago. Read DiversityInc’s LGBT Pride Facts & Figures, which you can use for educational purposes. For information on our diversity-training courses, click here.
  • Use your resource groups to create more inclusive workplaces. Your LGBT resource group is a great start. Make sure its name includes the word “friends,” “allies” or “straight” so people who are not LGBT or are not out are comfortable joining. Ensure that members of this resource group are included in prominent roles in company events and publications, that they meet frequently with senior leaders, and that they set up company-wide educational programs. Read Our Analysis of the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
  • Maintain a “no-tolerance for bigotry” policy for everyone. Core diversity-management values are essential to an organization, emanating from the very top. Those values must include an absolute adherence to diversity and inclusion for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious background, disability and, especially, orientation. Read Diversity Management 101 and The Four Stages of Diversity Management.

–Barbara Frankel

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  • I am so sick and tired of the same old argument that marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil rights issue. As a Latina, I have experienced discrimination. As a lesbian, I have experienced discrimination.

    Both have made me fearful sometimes, both have made me a target simply for the color of my skin or because who I hold hands with, both have made me less than a person in some people’s eyes.

    Discrimination is discrimination.

    I am angry, I am sad, I am fragile. I am hard. I am a lesbian. I am a believer. I am employed. I am volunteer. I am Latina. I recycle. I vote. I protest. I am happy. I am loved. I am an American. I am just like you.

  • So many African-Americans are in favor of LGBT rights, many of them from the church. In DC, where I live, a group called Clergy United for Marriage Equality (or something to that effect) were instrumental in gaining same-sex marriage rights for gay couples, and the vast majority were African-American leaders. This notion that black folks are vastly more homophobic that whites is a canard, and it’s disappointing to see DiversityInc falling into a trap that pits the two communities against each other. Are there virulent black homophobes? Sure. But I challenge you to find one that has said anything more reprehensible about the LGBT community that isn’t matched in tone and content by any number of virulent white homophobes.

  • I’m a little disappointed the statement – “I can’t change that I’m black, but they don’t have to be gay” – was even included in your article.
    I understand you were quoting someone else, but his statement is inaccurate, and including it may reinforce the misbelief that its true.

    There is overwhelming scientific evidence that human sexual orientation is determined prenatally.

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