Couples: President’s message another step in right direction for gay community

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Having the President of the United States approval about same-sex marriage is a breath of fresh air, said a couple who participated in a civil union when it became legal in Illinois.

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Having the President of the United States approval about same-sex marriage is a breath of fresh air, said a couple who participated in a civil union when it became legal in Illinois.

Bronzeville resident Jimm E. Cobb said when he heard the news of the President Obama’s approval, he was elated and trusts the president takes gays’ interest to heart, no matter how he arrived at the decision.

“Obama’s a good man. I don’t think he was pushed to make the decision because it’s an election year. I believe him about his children are getting older and understanding the difference. And, they’ve seen same-sex couples,” the 46-year-old Cobb told the Defender.

Cobb and his partner Ernest Ward have been together for 16 years. They were joined in a civil union last July.

Shanelle Moffett and Taneisha Watkins’ love for each other led them to be among those in the city’s first mass civil union ceremony last June.

“It’s basically just a step toward our future….we just wanted to be a part of

something great,” Moffett told the Defender after taking the vows at Millennium Park last year.

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans presided over the mass union of more than 30 couples that day.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in January 2011 that gave gay and lesbian couples many of the rights and legal protections of marriage, including the power to decide medical treatment for their partners and to inherit their partner’s property. Heterosexual couples also can enter into civil unions in Illinois.

Cleveland couple Iesha Trotter Harris and Daneice Harris attended an Equality Marriage Rally in March in the Midwestern city.

Trotter Harris, who came out to friends and family seven years ago, said while she’s happy the president put his stamp of approval on gay marriage, she hopes it wasn’t a stunt to get votes.

“We’ve been together for a while and it’s nice to know we can enter into a union like a heterosexual couple,” said the 33 year old.

Obama is not the only one who supports gay marriage. The NAACP has stepped up and said marriage equality is a civil right.

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said Monday he hopes the group’s resolution supporting same-sex marriage will encourage blacks to support marriage equality as a civil right if the question is put to voters on the ballot in Maryland or other states.

The civil rights group’s resolution was significant, as only 39 percent of Blacks favor gay marriage, compared with 47 percent of white Americans, according to a Pew poll conducted in April. Much of the opposition stems from churches, which have long been important institutions in the Black community.

Jealous spoke about the resolution, which was approved by the organization’s board of directors on Saturday, at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People headquarters in Baltimore. The resolution was approved about two weeks after President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage.

Jealous appeared with Roslyn Brock, who chairs the NAACP board of directors, and three other board members, Bishop William Graves of Memphis, Tenn., Richard Womack of Washington and Donald Cash of Columbia.

Jealous struggled to speak while recalling how his white father and Black mother confronted marriage laws that forced them to marry in Washington, D.C., in 1966 because interracial marriage was illegal in Maryland and his mother’s hometown of Baltimore until 1967. Jealous noted that the civil rights organization has opposed laws barring gay marriage in the past.

"What has changed is that this is the first time that we have made a full statement on marriage equality that goes beyond the circumstances of any one proposed law or any one state," Jealous said.

Brock emphasized that the resolution focused on marriage equality in the eyes of government, not religion.

"As the nation’s leading and oldest civil rights organization, it is not our role, nor our intent, to express how any place of worship should act in its own house," Brock said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, but 31 states have passed amendments to ban it in their constitutions. Maryland lawmakers passed a same-sex marriage measure this year. However, it does not take effect until January, and opponents are working to petition the law to the ballot for voters to decide in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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