Prop 8 Sparks Gay-Black Divide

This issue, she said, will not be fought in the churches, but in the courts. Already six lawsuits have been filed by three California cities, a lesbian couple and various civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Black and White Gays Don't Mix

All argue that Prop 8 was a constitutional revision, not an amendment and requires higher level scrutiny than just a popular vote.

Several of the civil rights groups are already on the defensive. LAMBDA Legal said in a prepared statement this week that the "racial scapegoating was destructive and unacceptable."

"Blaming African-American or any people of color voters is foolish," said executive director Kevin Cathcart. "If we had 400,000 more 'no' votes from any racial, ethnic, age and religious group -- or rather, from all groups together -- we would have won."

But Karin Wang, vice president of programs for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, agreed that the civil rights groups could have "done more" to engage people of color on the issue.

"This is not to say that the 'No' on Prop 8 campaign did not do anything all, but clearly in the aftermath of the election, not enough was done and now we have to ensure that the right leaders and groups -- both within and outside the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community -- are involved," she told

Emil Wilbekin, who was named one of the Top 100 most influential gay men by Out magazine, acknowledges the homophobia but also blames the overwhelmingly white gay community for practicing a kind of "institutional racism" where blacks are not welcome.

"Black gay people are not always accepted in the hierarchy of gay society, which is successful, with disposable income and second homes," said Wilbekin, who caused a sensation when, as an openly gay man he was appointed editor of Vibe, a magazine that serves the hip-hop culture. "The gay community is not one big happy family."

"If you go to Fire Island [a gay New York resort] in the summer, there's not tons of black people and if there are, they are not integrated," said Wilbekin, who is now 41 and editor of Giant magazine. "There is no sense of belonging."

Dating Web sites still smack of segregation with postings from those who say they don't want to date black people. At a recent benefit for a gay high school in New York City, Wilbekin said he mingled with "largely white, handsome gay men."

"We are outsiders and we band together to support each other," he said. "It's a double-edged sword. You take the homophobia, lack of support by the black church and you throw in economic and social aspects and then a kind of racism, it's a challenging situation."

But Wilbekin, who now volunteers with gay youth, agrees with Bartlett that high-profile blacks who are also gay, can do much to change attitudes.

"You have to end up being a role model and live by example," said Wilbekin. "I have young people coming up to me all the time and thanking me for being out. It's really touching and moving. But it's a bit sad, too. It's 2008 and we have a black president and people are still living in the closet."

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