The largest roadblock to the nationwide redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples is the group of people perhaps least ashamed to voice their convictions in the matter: black Christians. In a pathetic effort to eradicate this roadblock, lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual (LGBT) activists have accused traditional marriage advocates of “creating” a division between minority Christian leaders and the homosexual community. If we are to believe same-sex marriage advocates, racial and ethnic minorities are naturally sympathetic to the LGBT cause. But anyone who has spoken to blacks who lived through the Civil Rights movement without going in the LGBT payroll knows nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, few issues in American history have brought together more people from vastly different political and racial backgrounds than the fight to preserve traditional marriage. African-Americans have joined with people of all races and creeds to resist the radical effort of activists to redefine marriage and family. As a result new heroes are emerging with the courage of the Freedom Riders of the 1960s.
Just look at New York, where Democratic Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz bravely spoke out in opposition to gay marriage. In my own state of Maryland, black churches are helping lead the fight to put the marriage issue on the ballot, while in D.C. Civil Rights legend Walter Fauntroy endorsed a federal marriage amendment. Meanwhile, in North Carolina, voters will decide the fate of the Marriage Amendment on May 8. All across the country, minority Americans are emerging as leaders in a fight which is bringing together Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians, Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
In the midst of this fight, LGBT activists have created a mythology to try to explain the fierce minority opposition to their agenda. Primary among these myths is the idea that the National Organization for Marriage, with whom I and many African Americans have been proud to stand, is responsible for dividing racial minorities against the gay community. Nothing could be further from the truth. NOM has instead provided a national platform for racial minorities to voice their heartfelt outrage at an agenda that is trying to hijack the moral authority of the Civil Rights struggle.
The overwhelming majority of African-Americans, like the majority of Americans generally, do not believe same-sex marriage is a civil right, or that sexual behavior is akin to race.
We have been sending this message loud and clear to the elites in government, in the media and in academia for many years. The most telling instance was that in 2008, when African-Americans were overwhelmingly supporting Barack Obama for President, we were also voting to protect and preserve marriage as a foundational institution of society, consisting of one man and one woman.
That year in California, approximately 70 percent of black voters – literally hundreds of thousands of them – voted for Proposition 8 which protects marriage as that very foundational institution of society. The response from activists and media elites ever since has been to cast these voters as either ignorant, bigoted or both.
There were similar disturbing reactions in Maryland during the fight in the state legislature over the same-sex marriage bill earlier this year. A Feb. 23 Washington Post story about black pastors opposing the bill went so far as to accuse:
“All of a sudden, they are bigots and haters — they who stood tall against discrimination, who marched and sat in, who knew better than most the pain of being told they were less than others."
Despite this morally absurd charge hurled by the biased writers of the Washington Post, good men and women leaders in the black church stood their ground. In fact, the black church in Maryland continues to rise up against gay marriage and will defeat it by referendum this year.
The LGBT community, on the other hand, is indeed guilty of creating division and maligning the character of honest people who simply want the right to express their convictions. It is they who should apologize for slandering African Americans who oppose gay marriage as bigots. The important moral debate about marriage would be far less poisonous if gay marriage advocates would admit that well-meaning people can disagree on this issue.
The fact is that black Americans are understandably more worried about problems like crime, education and the economy than whether homosexual couples have to go through extra legal hurdles to designate their next of kin. Yet in the face of all these problems, liberal activists want the Democratic Party to put a plank in the party’s platform endorsing same-sex marriage. It will be interesting to see how President Obama—who ran as an opponent to same sex marriage—will respond.
Whether President Obama stands firm on marriage or not (and I pray he will), many leaders in the black community – joining hands and hearts with people of many different races, creeds, colors and political parties – will continue to affirm that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as God intended. To suggest that we are paying the price for our convictions because we were manipulated by an outside organization is both condescending and outrageous.
Harry R. Jackson Jr. is senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, a 3,000-member congregation in the nation’s capital, with his wife Michele. He also is founder and president of High Impact Leadership Coalition and the founder of International Communion of Evangelical Churches.