Black Churches Resent Gay Civil Rights Comparisons
I was reading Alix’s recent blog post about homophobia in the black community and the subject of education was quickly addressed and targeted as one of the main culprits in the moral dilemma surrounding homosexuality and black acceptance, or the unproven, yet definitive lack thereof. I came across many a disturbing comment from black clergy from all walks of life weighing in on gays and lesbians.
“Just because I don’t want a gay man to teach my son in school, that is not discrimination,” said Rev. Richard Bennett Jr., whose African American Council of Christian Clergy in 2002 circulated fliers to Miami-area black churches saying Dr. King would be “outraged” at efforts to link gay rights advocacy with the black civil rights struggle.
“If my daughter plays with a little girl who says I have two mommies or two daddies, that’s affecting my children,” he added. “For them to compare the civil rights with gay rights – it should be offensive to every African-American in the whole United States.”
Black clergy have long opposed the march toward legal same-sex marriages. Now, they’re also challenging the growing efforts of gay-marriage supporters to frame the issue as a civil rights cause.
The Rev. William Gillison, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, a large African-American congregation on East Delevan Avenue, said he is insulted by the comparison.
In April, Gov. David A. Paterson, who is black, compared the fight to eliminate slavery in the 1800s to the current effort to legalize gay marriage. He later chided religious leaders for not having spoken out against discrimination of gays.
Most black pastors, here and elsewhere, remain overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds and objected to Paterson’s characterizations.
Among the region’s black clergy, the Rev. Gerard Williams stands largely alone.
Williams, who leads Unity Fellowship of Christ, a small, fledgling congregation, echoed Paterson’s remarks, saying, “Oppression is oppression.”
“If Dr. [Martin Luther] King had to weigh in on it, he’d come down on the side of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said Williams.
Clergy who oppose gay marriage don’t want to hear that argument, he added, because they have “become the very thing that oppressed them.”
If same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York, Williams anticipates he will field quite a few more telephone calls from couples hoping to tie the knot. And he would be happy to perform the ceremony.
“It was not Christ’s intent that anybody be left out. It was not Christ’s intent that anybody be judged and condemned,” he said.
The most recent poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University last week, found New Yorkers split 46 percent to 46 percent on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. An earlier poll by Siena College found 53 percent of state residents in favor of making gay marriages legal.
African-Americans were the only ethnic group in both polls to say they did not approve of gay marriage, by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent in the Quinnipiac survey and by 49 percent to 44 percent in the Siena study.
Black ministers — along with the state’s Catholic bishops — remain among the most vehement opponents of the measure.
“My opposition to this is very simple. It’s not my biblical understanding of what marriage is,” Gillison said. “We believe when you’re talking marriage, it’s between a man and a woman. We don’t even believe marriage is man’s idea. It’s God’s idea. This has always been for us an issue that is one in the spiritual realm, not the political realm.”
I have yet to hear an argument about why gay marriage shouldn’t be granted that isn’t rooted deep and even on the surface of religion. The holier than thou’s apparently haven’t familiarized themselves with article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli which explicitly states “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” Nor do they appear to have any knowledge or understanding of the history of marriage sans religion.