NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous on Monday became emotional as he spoke to reporters about his organization’s decision to support marriage rights for LGBT couples.
“Our calling as an organization is to defend the U.S. Constitution,” Jealous told reporters during a press conference at the NAACP headquarters on Monday. “We are here to speak to matters of civil law and matters of civil rights.”
The NAACP president added that he wasn’t worried about a backlash from religious members of NAACP over support for marriage equality.
“I’ve spoken to many clergy who feel differently, different sides, different theologies, different doctrines. All are very clear that if this is a difference, it is a difference, not a division. If this is a contrast, it is a contrast, not a conflict.”
“To a one, they understand that they are a well…,” he said, pausing as he choked up.
“You have to excuse me,” Jealous explained, his voice trembling. “I’m a bit moved. My parents own marriage was against the law at the time and they had to return here to Baltimore after getting married in Washington, D.C. And the procession back was mistaken for a funeral procession because it was so quixotic to people to see all these cars with these headlights on, having to go from one city all the way to the next just so they could have a party after they got married in their own home. This is an important day.”
The NAACP announced on Saturday that it had passed a resolution affirming support for same sex marriage rights.
“At a meeting of the 103-year old civil rights group’s board of directors, the organization voted to support marriage equality as a continuation of its historic commitment to equal protection under the law,” a statement said.
The U.S. Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in its 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision. By 2005, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld determined that 7 percent of all marriages in the U.S. were interracial.
Watch Jealous’ emotional response to a reporter’s question starting at about 6:00 in the following video from CNN, broadcast May 21, 2012.