Black Ministers Follow Obama on Same-Sex Marriage Stance

otis moss iii

Rev. Otis Moss III

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. “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…” Obama told Good Morning America’s news anchor Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview.

Just as Obama could no longer shrewdly fence-sit on the issue while winking a stealth nod to LGBTQ voters, black ministers — who quietly professed to be allies to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community — could no longer stay closeted from their congregations.

For these African-American ministers, the liability of Obama losing his 2012 re-election bid is 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 former and infamous 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.

These ministers — some who are allies for LGBTQ civil rights, but draw the line on same-sex marriage — espouse their opposition to same-sex marriage as a prophylactic measure to combat the epidemic level 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 support for marriage equality, a coalition of African American civil rights leaders signed their names to an open letter affirming their solidarity with President Barack Obama on marriage equality. Signees include Dr. Joseph Lowrey, 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. more from irene monroe

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.”

Another petition going around the country aimed at reaching and informing African American voters, particularly black Chirsitian voters, about wedge strategies to divide the community this 2012 election year is NoWedge2012.comIn 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.”

Right-wing organizations like National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which support presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, are actively courting black churches for their strategic 2012 election game plan to drive a wedge between LGBTQ and African American voters.

And the black community mustn’t fall prey to that plan. And the thought of the first African-American president losing his re-election bid because of homophobic views on marriage equality led by black pastors will be tragic. Rev. Irene Monroe

If that happens, their action that will be remembered through history. Obama is president of the United States and not pastor of the United States. He’s 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 would not.  

Rev. Irene Monroe


  1. Jay Levenberg, Esq. says

    Obama can read polls as well as anyone else. What you fail to realize is that he not a leader but just another politician. A leader would have asked the nation to deal with the issue and recognize the civil rights implications. Instead, Mr. Obama has made a statement of his own personal views and then said it’s up to the individual states to decide the issue. So much for leadership. This is a President that leads from behind. I can only imagine that we would be in far better shape if Hillary won the Presidency in 2008. But all of you dreamers on this site were so mesmerized with this phoney messiah that you lost sight of a more important principal and that is to elect leaders that will lead and not just follow. The clues where there but you didn’t want to see them like how many times Obama voted “present” as a state senator rather than take a stand on an issue. He was worried about his US Senate run.
     The successful Presidents of the past include FDR, Kennedy, Clinton and Reagan. All were leaders and while they would compromise when necessary they had a vision of where they want to take the nation. President Obama has no such vision, he only has an inflated ego.

  2. Reggie Brown says

    The gay issue is Obama’s FDR moment.

     FDR: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it …”
    Obama: My personal feeling is that gays and lesbians should have equal rights, but I’m worried about anti-gay voters, so I’m not going to expend any more political capital on this issue (unless I need to do something else to capture votes from gays and lesbians and their supporters…). 

    Obama probably hoped to go down in history as the Prez who finally gave us universal healthcare, but those hopes and expectations are being dashed because he gave us universal health insurance instead. The same-sex marital rights issue could be a defining moment for the Change he promised. To do so, he needs to take this issue up a notch, and it’s up to us to push him. The Democratic Party has screwed up the gay issue for fifteen years. Bill Clinton’s “compromise” with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) put our party in the position of continually fighting throngs of angry fundamentalists.  The GOP wins elections when their single issue voters are angry or fearful. Who cares about the economy when you have the chance to vote against the gays? Without DOMA, the state by state oppression of gay and lesbian citizens wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful across the country. But once the federal government allowed states to ignore legal marital contracts from other states (in violation of our Constitution’s “full faith and credit clause”), states were free to trample on other states’ gay marriages. Our first step is to repeal DOMA with the Respect for Marriage Act, and that will only happen if Democrats get off their buts and demand Congress move on this.
    Meanwhile, we need to work within our own communities to help people to distinguish between equal rights in civil marital contracts versus church supportedholy matrimony, which is a religious concept and defines a relationship between a man, a woman and God. Instead of allowing wingers to pretend religious marriage is the same thing as the civil contract our governments regulate, we need to draw a clear line between civil marriage and “holy matrimony.” Instead of fighting to include gays and lesbians in “regular” marriage, we can allow same-sex couples to share in the constitutionally based rights and benefits of civil marriage by decisively pushing holy matrimony out of the institution of marriage.
    We need to speak up and correct our friends, colleagues and even politicians, reporters and media pundits when they confuse civil marriage with holy matrimony. But an even more effective strategy is to point out the parallels between the black civil rights movement and today’s gay rights movement. When people claim that oppression of gays and lesbians is not comparable to that of African-Americans, they are empirically wrong. Not only is the oppression similar, but the path forward may benefit from some of the same techniques we used in the 1950s. The next time someone claims that the gays are hijacking the African-American civil rights movement, remind them that bigots also used the Bible to justify slavery and subjugation of African-Americans. We don’t have to compare oppressions between different groups, we just have to recognize the similarities in function and effect.
    We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and November 2012. President Obama is unlikely to take more political risk with the gay rights issue, unless we push him to do so.

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