Black evangelical groups across the nation are organizing campaigns against same-sex marriage. On the same day Massachusetts is issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, Monday, May 17, some of the most renowned black clergymen will gather in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill to denounce homosexual marriage and to break the connection many gay rights make between same-sex marriage issue and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
"Gays have never gone through slavery nor been put down and abused like blacks,'' said Bishop Frank Stewart of the Zoe Christian Fellowship, a group of 21 churches in Southern California. "It's an insult to use that parallel.''
In San Francisco, a coalition of seven African American pastors called San Francisco Tabernacle Clergy have written their own joint statement condemning comparisons of same-sex marriage to the civil rights movement.
Such comparisons, the clergymen said, "are offensive and belittle the cause of freedom and racial justice.''
Bishop Donald Green, the pastor of San Francisco Christian Center and chairman of the coalition, said their arguments are wholly based on the Bible and experience in black churches.
"As African American pastors, teachers, counselors and leaders, we see and live with the horrors of a declining society,'' they state. "Same-sex marriage would serve to advance the decline of marriage and ... family values in the African American community.''
Although the majority of black Christian leaders are against gay marriage, there are some liberal groups who support gay marriage.
The Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, said Christian right leaders mobilizing black clergy are "attempting to divert attention from the real issue.''
"They need to open up to other perspectives,'' Williams said. "I've said this (the gay rights movement) is a part of the civil rights movement. The issue is to bring out freedom in people's lives.''
Another rally called “Not on My Watch” is scheduled to take place as well in Texas next weekend, May 22.
"It would be a historical error to equate the civil rights struggle for racial equality with the movement for civil accommodations based solely upon sexual behavior,'' said Promise Keepers President Thomas Fortman, who is supporting the “Not on My Watch” rally.
Over the past 13 years, Fortman, African American who grew up in the civil rights movement and was named the head of the evangelical men's movement last October, has been mobilizing Christian men to protect traditional marriage through Promise Keepers
Meanwhile, the Traditional Values Coalition is also actively engaging in the battle to protect marriage, mobilizing some nationally known African American church leaders.
Bishop Paul Morton, the presiding bishop of the fast-growing Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship; evangelist and former NFL star Darrell Green; and California television evangelist Frederick K.C. Price are among those black Christian luminaries who will call on the Congressional Black Caucus to oppose civil unions for homosexual couples.
In an interview with San Francisco Chronicle, Price emphasized the importance of the gay marriage issue to every ethnic Christian community. He said he has nothing against homosexual individuals but from reading the Bible, he believes "marriage is a union created and recognized by God" and that "homosexuality is an abomination.''