Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Gay Marriage and Black Ministers

Recently at a conference in Washington, DC. a Minister from Louisiana confided in me the following statement. "Ten years ago, I would get a call every 6 - 9 months from a gay couple asking if I would marry them. I just hung up the phone and simply stated no at this church. Now, ten years later, I get on average 10 - 15 calls per week, asking if I marry gay couples."

Black ministers slam gay unions

They want lawmakers to back amendment

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

By Bruce Alpert

Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- As Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to gay
and lesbian couples Monday, a group of African-American ministers called
on the Congressional Black Caucus to support a constitutional amendment
banning same-sex marriages.

The ministers, including Bishop Paul Morton Sr. of the Greater St.
Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church, said they are deeply troubled by the
unions, which they consider a violation of God's will.

The issue could cause some discomfort for some Democrats who support
same-sex marriage while also depending on historically strong support
from African-Americans. That is especially true for black elected

"Election time, they (Black Caucus members) don't go to homosexual
churches, they go to black churches looking for votes, and we want them
to respect our views that we are totally against gay marriage and
totally against civil unions," Morton said.

Morton said he delivered a similar message during his sermon Sunday, and
noticed Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, a Black Caucus member, in
the congregation.

"We'll just have to meet and see what he has to say," Morton said.

Jefferson couldn't be reached for comment Monday. In the Louisiana
delegation, Jefferson is seen as the member most sympathetic to gay
rights issues, but he did vote for the so-called "Defense of Marriage
Act" in 1996 to prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a
think tank that specializes in African-American political issues, said
opposition to gay marriage is probably stronger in the black community
than among white communities, reflecting the importance of the church in
African-American communities. But, he said, it won't be enough to swing
black voters against members of the Black Caucus or to the support of
Republicans like President Bush, who, unlike presumptive Democratic
nominee John Kerry, supports a constitutional amendment.

Black voters, Bositis said, may support Bush on gay marriage, but by and
large remain skeptical about the war in Iraq and the president's
economic policies. Bush got only 9 percent of the black vote in 2000.

Morton doesn't disagree, saying that black voters have "to choose
between the lesser of two evils," and that Kerry and Democrats generally
advocate more help for the poor than Republicans. "The issue of gay
marriage is one that we won't compromise on, but we have to weigh
everything when we vote," said Morton, who said he generally backs
Democratic candidates.

But Bishop Charles E. Brown, pastor of the Full Gospel Church of God in
New Orleans, said that for members of some denominations, including his
own, the issue of gay marriage may turn some traditional Democratic
voters to the GOP and Bush.

"I think they may well take the position that same-sex marriage is one
of moral turpitude and that it even outweighs the economy," Brown said
in a telephone interview from New Orleans.

At an emotional news conference Monday on Capitol Hill, Morton was
joined by more than 25 other ministers from black churches. He said it
is a sad irony that Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses on the
same day "one of the most important civil rights cases in our country's
history," striking down segregated schools, was decided in Brown v.
Board of Education 50 years ago.

Morton said he is personally outraged that some gay leaders would liken
efforts to win equal rights, including the right to marry, to the civil
rights movement for African-Americans and other minorities."

"African-Americans have to be who we are," Morton said. "This is the way
we're going to heaven. They (gays and lesbians) don't have to go heaven
that way."

Asked how he responded to some scientists who say that sexual
orientation is decided by biology and not by personal choice, Morton
said: "Scientists have been wrong before, but God has never been wrong."

There are other views among African-American clergy on same-sex
marriage. During his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, the
Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York City African-American minister, said, "All
human beings should have equal access to civil rights and institutions,
including the right to marry."

. . . . . . .

Bruce Alpert can be reached at bruce.alpert@newhouse.com or (202)


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12:35 AM  

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