The NAACP endorsed same-sex marriage Monday calling it one of the key civil rights issues of the day.
"Civil marriage like all civil rights provided by the government must be provided equally to all," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous. "We oppose all efforts by Congress or any president to enshrine discrimination into the laws of our great country."
The press conference held at the organization's Baltimore headquarters explained its board of directors' decision Saturday to release a resolution supporting "marriage equality."
Jealous called it "the responsibility and history of the NAACP to speak up on the civil rights issues of our time" and that using the Constitution to deny same-sex marriage could lead the country in a "dangerous direction."
Jealous also said he didn't want the issue used as a wedge issue in the upcoming election. Many African Americans oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
Board Chairman Rosslyn Brock stressed that religion played no role in the decision.
"It is not our role or our intent to express how any place of worship should act in its own house," said Brock. "We have not done so in the past and we will not do so in the future."
Brock added that some of the board of directors members' beliefs were still evolving on the issue, but they all stood behind releasing the resolution.
The 103-year-old organization cited the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment as the basis of its decision.
Jealous said this was the first time the organization has made a full statement on same-sex marriage that went beyond proposed laws. The NAACP also opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and signed onto a lawsuit to invalidate Proposition 8 in California.
North Carolina recently becoming the 30th state to ban same-sex marriage also played a role in the timeliness of issuing this resolution, he said.
The NAACP's resolution comes almost two weeks after President Barack Obama publically supported same-sex marriage for the first time.