THE BLOG
05/16/2014 03:48 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2014

My Sadness Over the Detroit Pastors' Opposition to Marriage Equality

I recently watched on The Huffington Post, with deep sadness, a video of a coalition made up primarily, but not exclusively, of African American pastors in Detroit speaking out against marriage equality.

The reason for the pastors' uproar was Michigan's ban on gay marriage had been overturned in March. The ruling was placed on hold while it is considered by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

My sadness is manifested on multiple levels. It recalled the days when I first made my support for marriage equality publicly known nearly 20 years ago. It marked the first time that as a columnist I received death threats. I even experienced two white gentlemen standing in front of my church dressed as Satan, before Sunday morning worship, holding a placard that read: "Byron Williams hates Blacks!" because of my unwavering support for marriage equality.

Such venom is the tragic residue of myopically locating a biblical text that justifies one's preordained discomfort with homosexuality. It attaches the worst stereotypes to a defenseless straw man in order to hide behind so-called biblical principles to unleash what is nothing more than unadulterated hatred and ignorance.

Another area of sadness is watching the faith that I've committed my life, which is rooted in the inconvenient love of Jesus of Nazareth being hijacked and subsequently bastardized.

The teachings of Jesus are not rooted in what one likes or supports. In fact, the better barometer may be the opposite, based on one's ability to demonstrate love when it is inconvenient. What one personally likes or dislikes may be the most overrated aspect of the faith. Moreover, dislike does not render one immune from the burden of affirming the humanity of one's neighbor.

I watched with dejection as the Rev. Roland Caldwell offer that support of same-gender marriage is to be against God; and with a loose association with grammar boldly proclaim, "Anybody that's an enemy of God is an enemy of mines."

Even at this junction, the teachings of Jesus still command that we love our enemies.

I am further saddened that myriad arguments posed not only by the Detroit pastors, but clergy across the nation that oppose marriage equality are nothing more than a series of indefensible emotion based falsehoods -- some possessing the harmful stench of mendacity.

The notion that biblical marriage is between one man and one woman ends at Genesis 4:19; the faux sociological critique that somehow children will be harmed; and the belief that same-gender marriage is even a "church" issue fail to be supported by the illumination of data.

Where are the factions of children who have been irretrievably harmed having grown up in homes led by same-gender unions? How is the church impacted should marriage equality become the universal law of the land tomorrow? Answer: It wouldn't!

It is disconcerting to hear opposition, based on one's personal discomfort that marriage equality is erroneously an extension of the civil rights movement. This reveals ignorance about the movement they claim to honor.

Ironically, their ignorance blinds them to the fact that they offer the same arguments against marriage equality that were used against those who valiantly marched in the sweltering heat of Jim Crow oppression. Though it is a position that has ultimately been proven wrong since 1787 whenever the expansion of rights were considered, their arrogance seductively leads them to believe that after 227 years the same failed arguments will finally be vindicated.

The Christian, conservative Thomas More Law Center filed an amicus brief of behalf of the pastors argued, in part, the 110 black pastors from Detroit were troubled by the comparison between marriage equality and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. "The fact that American media or other factions erroneously characterize the traditional meaning of 'marriage' as being on par with the civil rights deprivations of Black Americans does not make it so." They go on to state, "Comparing the dilemmas of same-sex couples to the centuries of discrimination faced by Black Americans is a distortion of our country's cultural and legal history."

Linear comparisons to suffering may successfully titillate the uniformed, but can only stand unabated if not hampered by scrutiny. But the law center's argument does beg the question: What are civil rights? Are they special rights reserved only for African Americans? Or are they a class of rights that protect individual freedom from government or private organizations?

Obviously, it was the latter question, supported by the 14th Amendment, which spawned the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King beautifully summed up the ethos of the movement in his last speech on April 3, 1968.

"All we say to America is, 'Be true to what you said on paper.' If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right."

Isn't King's statement also at the root of marriage equality? Are not countless numbers of LGBT couples saying to America: "Be true to what you said on paper?"

Beyond the emotion, cacophony, absurdity and nonsense, all that remains is a faction of the church content to continue the legacy that has it on the wrong side of history.