Many African-Americans are buzzing about the latest edition of Jet magazine, which for the first time features a gay male couple in its popular section for wedding announcements.
The magazine's Dec. 10 issue display of Ravi Perry and Paris Prince, who held their wedding ceremony in their backyard in Worcester, Mass., is being praised by LGBT activists and some readers as a societal breakthrough given the magazine's reputation for reflecting traditional black cultural mores for 61 years.
Photo from Jet's wedding section.
Photo from Jet's wedding section.
"We thought it would be important to help demonstrate to the nation, and particularly to the black community, that this marriage was just as much of a reputable marriage as any other," says Perry, a political science professor at Mississippi State University.
Perry, who, along with Prince, is an LGBT activist, says they sought placement in the magazine to "help the community move forward around these issues."
Jet, which publishes twice a month, has a circulation of more than 700,000 and says it reaches 7 million readers. For most of its history, Jet published weekly and was a fixture on the coffee tables of black homes for generations.
"This is HUUUUGGGGGE! I am so proud of my people!" a person posted in the comments section beneath a blog post on the website for GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy group.
"So proud of @GetJETmag for running its first same-sex marriage announcement. Marriage equality for all!!" someone posted on Jet's Twitter account.
Jet Editor-in-Chief Mitzi Miller says the magazine's decision "wasn't a calculated move at all. They are just a lovely couple." In fact, Miller noted that Jet ran the wedding news of two lesbian couples last year. But she acknowledged the significance of featuring Perry and Prince, in light of the homophobia that black culture has particularly meted out to gay men.
Blacks, many of whom are evangelical Christians, have been slower than other Americans to change their attitudes about gay marriage. An October 2011 Pew Research poll found that 62 percent of black Protestants oppose same-sex marriage.
During the presidential campaign, pundits, journalists and the Twitter world debated whether black voters would turn on President Obama for announcing his support for gay marriage.
Instead, Obama may have had the opposite effect. In the weeks after his announcement, three polls found that blacks' opposition to gay marriage dropped by double-digit margins. One of the surveys found a similar trend among all Americans.
Gay-rights activists credited Obama's stance with helping to build the momentum that led voters in Washington state, Maine and Maryland to legalize gay marriage last month. The states are the first to approve the measure by popular vote. (In Massachusetts, where Perry and Prince tied the knot, gay marriage was legalized by legislative action.)
Daryl Hannah, a spokesman for GLAAD, which helped the couple get placed in Jet, said the feature is a "natural culmination of a lot of events" since Obama's announcement.
"We know what happens when our story isn't told in publications that are fixtures in the African-American community. It perpetuates a picture that African-American LGBT couples don't exist," Hannah says. "This is a page-turning moment in history."
"I think the black community on an insular, personal level is definitely moving towards being more inclusive," Miller says. "Certainly I've gotten one or two letters from people who are appalled and think this is not what their Jet should be about. But the response has been primarily positive."