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President Obama and the Black Church

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Will President Obama's support for same-gender marriage have repercussions within the African American community, specifically the historical black church?

Some African American pastors stated last week that their congregations would stay at home on Election Day.

Strange as it may seem, if this were true, it might be a welcomed sign of hope for the African American community. Just imagine momentarily if black voters decided not to support the president because of his personal stand on marriage equality it would mean the community as a whole had made tremendous strides in other areas.

Urban violence, quality education, the economy and diseases such diabetes, strokes, obesity, cancer and AIDS that disproportionately impact the African American community would have declined to a point they would have the luxury to focus on a single issue that does not impact their lives in any tangible way.

But wait a minute Byron! How can you say same-gender marriage does not impact the church in any tangible way? This is moral issue and Leviticus clearly states homosexuality is an abomination.

Without engaging in a exegesis of the moral codes when Leviticus was written, allow me to offer that I have not seen any moral movements to deny the constitutional rights of those who eat shell fish or pork, or those who have the unmitigated gall to wear two different fabrics -- all prohibited by the same book of Leviticus.

The debate centers on civil marriage, an institution that is supported by the tax dollars of all Americans. The issues for marriage equality in no way involve the church.

Countless numbers of atheists have also used civil marriage to join in matrimony.

Why stop with gays and lesbians? Shouldn't any movement allegedly supporting the sanctity of marriage also include non-believers?

Though the president's statement was groundbreaking, it changes nothing. In fact, if the president warrants any criticism it would be his maintaining that the issue of marriage equality is one for the states to decide individually.

This position, though politically motivated, is difficult to believe, given the president once taught constitutional law. He is offering a 10th Amendment solution for what is clearly a 14th Amendment problem.

The 10th Amendment, where we derive state's rights, is subservient to the 14th Amendment that guarantees due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. This was the crux of the Supreme Courts ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

I have no doubt there are many within the African American church that oppose marriage equality out of a sense of moral sincerity. But the genuineness of their position cannot mask the obvious incongruence.

How can one hold a moral position that seeks to deny rights to gays and lesbians that are currently enjoyed by convicted serial murders? Are we really willing to place such a high premium on being heterosexual?

What about the "marriage equals procreation" argument? That is an extremely effective canard for childless couples of myriad forms to dissolve their marriages immediately, but it hardly justifies denying gays and lesbians equal protection under the law.

Moreover, if one takes the time to read Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that protected women's right to privacy, they would know there is no direct relationship between procreation and marriage.

I suspect undergirding this kerfuffle is the misnomer that one's personal understanding of morality is the end point for public policy, when in fact it is the beginning in our public discourse.

What's most unfortunate is the biblical misappropriation to justify inequality based on a fundamentalist interpretation. Or as the late Rev. Sloan Coffin opined, "Fundamentalists use the Bible the way a drunk uses a lamppost -- always for support and never for illumination."