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NAACP stands for all civil rights, national leader says

| Thursday, June 7, 2012, 11:09 p.m.
'For every objection we have received, we probably have received nine letters of praise' about supporting same-sex marriage, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said on Thursday in the Pittsburgh Athletic Club.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
'For every objection we have received, we probably have received nine letters of praise' about supporting same-sex marriage, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said on Thursday in the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

The NAACP's support of same-sex marriage does not change the organization's mission because it has always been an advocate for all civil rights, the group's president said.

"For every objection we have received, we probably have received nine letters of praise," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said on Thursday.

Jealous also spoke about the NAACP's opposition to voter identification laws and racial profiling during interviews before his keynote address at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Center on Race and Social Problems, which is part of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Social Work.

In response to criticism from black church leaders over the announcement in May that the organization supports same-sex marriage, Jealous said he respects theological disagreements, but the NAACP's support is based on the Constitution.

On Wednesday, a minister resigned as president of an NAACP chapter representing Iowa and Nebraska because of the national group's support for same-sex marriage.

"Civil marriage is a government issue," Jealous said.

Jealous focused on racial profiling in a keynote address titled: "Trayvon Martin: Racial Profiling and the Urgent Need to Heal America."

The practice is a lazy approach to law enforcement that focuses on a suspect's race in the absence of a real description, and it wastes valuable time and resources that could be used to solve crimes, he said.

Larry Davis, dean of Pitt's School of Social Work and founder of the Center on Race and Social Problems, agreed, saying while the United States has made strides in racial equality, including the election of a black president, the accomplishments have not eliminated bias.

Burrell Brown, 64, of Clairton, who attended Jealous' address, said the civil rights leader hit the right notes.

"I think he made a lot of good points about racial profiling and the need to not focus on race," said Brown, who served as an NAACP chapter president in Clairton.

Prior to delivering the keynote address, Jealous spoke about the racially charged Jordan Miles case involving three white Pittsburgh police officers who were accused of beating the unarmed black teenager in Homewood in 2010.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. declined to file charges against the officers last month, saying the case was not prosecutable.

"We are disappointed that the district attorney took a year and a half to get to 'no,' " said Jealous, who met with local leaders yesterday to discuss options "to get justice for the family," including working with the Department of Justice.

Jealous said sources told him that the investigation was flawed from the beginning.

Zappala's office maintains the investigation was thorough and fair.

"If the NAACP believes that a different investigative approach to police officers is necessary in Pennsylvania, this office will comply with whatever scheme the Legislature puts into effect," said Mike Manko, a spokesman for Zappala.

Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report.

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