Using Blacks For Saving America from Gay Marriage

No faith community knows better than the Black Church how religion-based bigotry shapes prejudicial attitudes many white Americans once held toward African Americans in this country. Religious texts have been interpreted to justify some of this country’s worst crimes against our community, resulting in the legality of slavery, the lynching of black boys and men – one of which this nation will never forget, 15-year-old Emmett Till – and the prohibition of interracial marriage.

As African Americans, we continue to experience the harm that religion-based bigotry causes, especially concerning the civil rights issue of same-sex marriage.

I am afraid that the civil rights issues concerning same-sex marriage as it affects all African American families – straight and gay alike – may very well be co-opted again by several national white anti-gay Christian groups and ministers. Such as was the recent attempt by Rev. Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California, who “thanked African-Americans for saving America from the bondage of gay marriage.”

What is Garlow referring to? His recent manipulative and exploitative campaign of thanking African Americans for the passing of Proposition 8. And in Garlow doing so, he is race-baiting a sector of California’s Christian conservatives who comprise of just 6.2 percent of the state’s overall population.

Garlow, in 2008, was instrumental in promoting religion-based bigotry in the Prop8 campaign and today on a much broader national scale as part of an organized effort to revitalize the Religious Right and its opposition to marriage equality. Garlow and a number of national white anti-gay Christian groups are once again soliciting African American faith communities to join them in an effort to bring immense harm to LGBTQ people, and society at large, from its brand of socially divisive politics.

If you don’t understand just how harmful Garlow’s message is to LGBTQ African Americans – and all LGBTQ people – consider how it feels to be told your state’s constitution will now proscribe that there is something about your person that is so awful and flawed that you don’t deserve a fundamental freedom that others enjoy. But Jim Garlow’s new-found appreciation of African-American community is disingenuous considering his and the Religious Right’s irrefutable embrace of divisive and racist politics.

For example, the Religious Right’s espousal of prejudice toward African Americans is seen in a recent comment by N.C. Republican Senator Jim Forrester who has introduced an anti-gay marriage bill. “Slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African American lobbies are running Raleigh,” Forrester stated in the Statesville Record and Landmark. Forrester is supportive of Christian Action League of North Carolina, an anti-gay religious organization born of Southern Baptist advocacy.

So why have so many of our African American ministers, who voted on Proposition 8, joined with national white anti-gay Christian groups? These are some of the same ministers who profess to have marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many national white anti-gay Christian groups have and continue to woo cash-strapped African American churches to their anti-gay crusade under the guise of protecting black civil rights. But the truth is they are really engaged in a broad anti-civil rights agenda that is harmful to African-Americans.

When Bush’s presidential campaign appeal to African Americans was that the Republican Party is the “party of Lincoln,” African American numbers grew, and white Conservative Christian organizations craftily tapped into the solidly black Democratic voting bloc by drawing cash-strapped black churches into their sphere. These organizations doled out big bucks to promote an anti-gay marriage agenda targeted to win black voters in 2004. Now they are doling out money to sponsor urban anti-violence programs operating out of black Christian churches.

As the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War this month, I am reminded that the fight for marriage equality in the U.S. is similar to my ancestors’ fight for freedom.

In their day, before the Civil War in 1861, the U.S. consisted of nineteen free states and fifteen slave states. As a matter of fact, in the 2004 presidential race between John Kerry and George Bush, where marriage equality was a hot-button issue, the election map results between Rev. Irene MonroeKerry’s blues states and Bush’s red states corresponded to the pre-civil war free states and slave states, respectively.

As an African American lesbian, I thank God that I am not in slavery. But I am certainly in a civil war with Garlow and national white anti-gay Christian groups and ministers who are now drumming up a manipulative and exploitative campaign to thank Christian conservative African-Americans for saving America from the bondage of gay marriage.

Whereas President Lincoln acted on behalf of my ancestor’s civil rights, I now need the Black Church to act on behalf of mine.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Published by the LA Progressive on April 16, 2011
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About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”