African-American ministers have come out for, and against, Obama's stance on marriage equality.
LGBTQ activists of African descent have pondered what would be the catalyst to rally those African-American Christian ministers to support same-sex marriage and engage the black community in a nationwide discussion.
Last week the answer arrived in President Barack Obama's support of marriage equality. Obama told Good Morning America news anchor Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview:
We are both practicing Christians, and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others, but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know: Treat others the way you would want to be treated ... I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts...
Just as Obama could no longer shrewdly fence-sit on the issue while winking a stealth nod to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) voters, black ministers who quietly professed to be allies to the LGBTQ community could no longer stay closeted from their congregations.
For these African-American ministers, the liability of Obama losing his 2012 reelection bid seems far greater than being publicly outed for not being in lockstep with their homophobic brethren.
"The institution of marriage is not under attack because of the president's words," Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago told his church on Sunday. Moss is the successor of President Obama's infamous former pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.
But for many African-American ministers in opposition to Obama's stance on marriage equality, the institution of marriage, at least within the black family, is under assault, and LGBTQ people further exacerbate the problem.
For these ministers, some of whom support LGBTQ civil rights but draw the line on same-sex marriage, espousing their opposition to same-sex marriage is a prophylactic measure to combat the epidemic of fatherlessness in black families. In scapegoating the LGBTQ community, these clerics are ignoring the social ills behind black fatherlessness, such as the systematic disenfranchisement of both African-American men and women, high unemployment, high incarceration, and poor education, to name a few.
In his homily Moss also stated:
Gay people have never been the enemy, and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of all our problems, we lie on God and cause tears to fall from the eyes of Christ. ... We must stay in dialogue and not allow our personal emotional prejudices or doctrines to prevent us from clearly seeing the possibility of the beloved community...
Immediately following Obama's public declaration of support for marriage equality, a coalition of African-American civil rights leaders signed their names on an open letter affirming their solidarity with President Obama on marriage equality. Signees include Dr. Joseph Lawry of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition for Black Civic Engagement, Julian Bond of the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Since Obama has come out with his support, many in the black community are working tirelessly to counter the barrage of attacks the he has received from opposing black clerics. For example, Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, Associate Dean of Community Life and Lifelong Learning at Boston University School of Theology, has a petition going around the country asking African-American clergy and scholars for their support on behalf the president's stance to counter the stereotype that "black folks are against homosexuality and gay marriage."
NoWedge2012.com is another petition going around the country, aimed at reaching and informing African-American voters, particularly black Chirsitian voters, about strategies intended to divide the community this election year. In stressing that the black religious community is not theologically monolithic, the petition states:
There is a great diversity in Black America on the cultural and theological understanding of sexual orientation than the media or popular culture give credence (recent polls show that African Americans are equally divided on marriage equality). We acknowledge that it was President Obama's faith that guided his shift in embracing marriage equality. Our community has the ability to hold different positions and not demonize what is perceived to be the "other." In light of this complexity Black America should hear from candidates with policy positions that are holistically beneficial for our community as a family.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a right-wing organization that supports presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, is actively courting black churches as part of its strategic 2012 election game plan, which includes driving a wedge between LGBTQ and African-American voters. And the black community mustn't fall prey to it.
If the first African-American president lost his reelection bid because of certain black pastors' homophobic views on marriage equality, that would be tragic, and history would not look kindly on their actions.
Obama is the president of the United States, not the pastor of the United States. He's the president of all the people, not some of the people.
As African Americans who have battled for centuries against racial discrimination, we have always relied on our president and his administration to fight for and uphold our civil rights, because too many pastors across the country and throughout centuries wouldn't.