DES MOINES (AP) — The new president of the Iowa-Nebraska State NAACP Conference said he accepts the national board's resolution to support the right of same-sex couples to marry, an endorsement that led to the resignation of the former president of the state group.
Arnold Woods of Urbandale, Iowa, assumed the presidency to succeed the Rev. Keith Ratliff of Des Moines. Ratliff, who has long opposed same-sex marriage, resigned earlier this month from his post with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Woods, who had been vice president of the Iowa-Nebraska civil rights group, said Tuesday that he supports the national board on equal marriage rights.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and then we follow the dictates of the national board,” said Woods, 64, who is director of financial aid at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.
The Iowa-Nebraska Conference includes branches in Omaha, Lincoln, Ames, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines and Sioux City.
Other members of the state conference said there is concern there was no local input on the issue of marriage equality.
Dedric Doolin, president of the Cedar Rapids branch of the NAACP, said most controversial issues are first debated at the local level before the national board takes a formal stance. In the case of same-sex marriage, that didn't occur, he said.
“My branch has instructed me to communicate to the national board a concern about the process and how this happened,” he said. The issue of same-sex marriage could be debated at the NAACP's national convention in early July in Houston.
The national board's endorsement of same-sex marriage is evidence of an impending divorce between national NAACP leaders and black churches that have long been one of the group's pillars of support, said Jonathan Narcisse, the education chairman of the NAACP's state executive committee.
“The leadership imposed this without really consulting anyone. I think that would not have happened in the past, because the NAACP was the one grass-roots organization that survived the test of time within the African-American community,” Narcisse said.
“With Rev. Ratliff resigning, what this says to me is that the relevance of this organization has been lost going forward, even on those who have long been associated with it,” Narcisse said.
NAACP board Chairwoman Roslyn Brock issued a statement last month elaborating on the decision to support same-sex couples' right to marry.
“When people ask why the NAACP stands firmly for marriage equality, we say that we have always stood against laws which demean, dehumanize or discriminate against any person in this great country. That is our legacy. For over 103 years we have stood against such laws, and while the nature of the struggle may change, our bedrock commitment to equality of all people under the law never will,” she said.
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