NAACP President Benjamin Jealous says he hopes the group's support of same-sex marriage will urge blacks to support marriage equality as a civil right if the question is put to voters on the ballot in Maryland.
Just days after the NAACP adopted a resolution that opposed any discriminatory legislation, including support for marriage equality, Jealous said that it was time for the 103-year-old civil rights organization to make its position clear.
Jealous noted that the civil rights organization has opposed laws barring gay marriage in the past.
"We feel it is important that everyone understand our commitment to equality under the constitution, and to marriage equality specifically," Jealous said.
He says this resolution marks the first time the NAACP has made a full statement on marriage equality that goes beyond the circumstances of any single proposed law or state. Calling it one of the key civil rights issues of our day, Jealous became emotional when speaking of his mother and father, a bi-racial couple who got married in 1966.
"My parents' own marriage was against the law at the time," jealous said.
The hope for the NAACP is to influence government and voters alike, but many who oppose the organization's move said they should have stayed out of a religious issue. But the organization's chair says they also affirm their support for religious freedom.
"It's not our role, nor our intent, to express how any place of worship should act in its own house," NAACP board chairperson Roslyn Brock said.
The biggest local test to the resolution comes in the form of a petition drive, underway now, to put Maryland's new same-sex marriage bill on the ballot next fall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.