Prominent black clergy support Maryland same-sex marriage

Hamil R. Harris The Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., talks about the campaign … Continued

Hamil R. Harris

The Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., talks about the campaign to support the Maryland same-sex marriage bill. The Rev. Al Sharpton and other nationally renowned ministers take part in a news conference at the National Press Club.

African Americans do not own the patent on civil rights and morality, according to several prominent African American pastors who have joined the effort to support a referendum in Maryland to allow same-sex marriage.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., the Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ where the Obamas once worshipped, were among a dozen or so clergy members who spoke at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday.

The leaders challenged fellow clergy who they say are using same-sex marriage as a “wedge issue” between Obama and African American voters.

“Why would you even suggest, after first fighting for the right to vote, should we give that right back now because someone disagrees with your denominational views,” said Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and a Baptist minister. “They are dealing with an issue that goes beyond a theological debate.”

“Justice doesn’t mean ‘just us.’ Justice is what love looks like in public policy,” said the Rev. Freddie D. Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas. “All people in this country should be afforded the same rights. No one entity owns civil rights.”

Coates organized the press conference, capitalizing on the presence of many well-known pastors in town for the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference to build support for a November referendum on the Maryland Civil Marriage Protection Act.

“As pastors and clergy leaders we are here today to declare our unequivocal support for Maryland’s Civil Right Marriage Protection Act and to dispel the myth that all African Americans pastors are fundamentally opposed to the idea of marriage equality,” Coates said.

While the purpose of the news conference was to talk about a Maryland ballot initiative, the issue has sparked a much larger debate in the African American community over same-sex marriage and comes at time when some pastors are allegedly telling their congregations to abstain from voting versus supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney or President Obama in November. In May, President Obama said he personally supported same-sex marriage and some people object to Romney’s proposed policy changes as well as his faith.

The Rev. Amos C. Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, said he took a social philosophy class taught by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1961. Brown said King would have agreed with those assembled at the news conference because he taught that “every person in this nation deserves respect and dignity and every person should have equal protection under the law.”

But the Rev. Ralph Martino, a radio host and pastor of First Church of Christ Holiness USA in the District, disagrees with the pastors. Martino, who appears regularly on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and hosts a weekly radio broadcast on Radio One, said he knows many Christians who plan to stay home in November because they can’t support the president or Romney.

“This is not about civil rights. This is about God’s plan for marriage. In their mind it is about equal rights and in our mind it is about extra rights,” Martino said in a telephone interview.

He said that while he isn’t telling people not to vote he understands what they are doing.

“They are taking a biblical stand to inform the Democrats and the Republicans that if they choose not to follow the footprints of Jesus Christ then we can choose not to follow you.”

Martino said he plans to join a newly formed faith-based independent political organization.

The African American voter turnout could be the critical difference in battleground states such as Virginia. The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, said he is working hard to prevent people from being sidetracked by the same-sex marriage debate.

“You can’t pinpoint any candidate on an issue and decide to stay home for that,” he said. “You can disagree on certain principles but I can still be out there casting my vote. For too long the church has been the advocate of what they are against and not what they are for and I don’t want to pastor people who stay home for one issue.”

Even though Obama left Trinity after comments made by former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright surfaced, Moss remains a passionate supporter of the president. He has launched a national movement to mobilize people of faith across the country and on Election Day.

“We have a national campaign to mobilize black churches, to excite congregations to take up offerings for people in states that are dealing with voter suppression,” he said. “There will be funds available for people to purchase their voter IDs in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and even in Indiana.”

  • mommywoman

    I am probably just about as knowledgable of the bible as most others. I do not live by the bible, as one would have to be perfect to do so. It is meant as a guideline for us. I also have my own opinions which do not always coincide with the teachings. My opinion of same sex marriages is probably among the less popular. It is not my place to judge people, it is the responsibility of their maker to do that. That said, I don’t understand what the problem is? Those that engage in same sex marriages are not harming anyone. They live according to their beliefs, as do I live according to mine. Why are these couples condemned more than any other group of people? They are condemned more than drug dealers, prostitutes and their Johns (“victimless crimes”), murderers, war mongers, and the list goes on. What goes on behind closed doors between 2 consenting adults is none of my business nor anyone else’s regardless of what the bible says. If these couples are in love let them live as couples in love do. Surely there are more serious matters to expend energy on in protesting. If this subject is the only thing people can come up with to voice concerns about, there is surely something wrong.

  • GerriM

    “Psychologists suggest someone who thinks it’s “morally responsible” to hurt others is what they call a sociopath.” Carrotcakeman


    Then he gives a link on homophobia as proof of a sociopath! No logic, no sense!

  • graydon_stephenson

    Maryland Question 6, Referendum Petition. Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

    Vote AGAINST the Referred Law

  • Turth be told

    Why is it such a big issue.We don’t have to look far for the answers. What did the angel from God tell Lot? Will sex between two men ever produce a baby? Will any life ever survive in the Dead Sea? This life is only a passage to heaven and most people should understand this. People make choices and when this life is over they better be ready for their consequences. We should not do what feels good to us but do what is good and FRUITFUL/FAITHFUL.

  • Eron Thomas

    Now this is a real shocker. Black Pastors doing what their told by the Supreme Leader. I am just stunned. Pathetic. Anything for power. Just so you know I am Gay. I just think this is a show for the media.

  • graydon_stephenson

    Washington Post moderators fear the free, reasonable, and rational expression of ideas.

    Speak reasonably. Strong language entertains. Reasonable speech persuades.

  • Jonathan So

    Why is this an issue?
    The whole thing is similar to the Catholic concept of divorce, in that it is not legitimate in the eyes of God (unless the Church approves the annulment) However, what the Catholic Church recognizes is not the same as what the LAW recognizes.

    The legal status of marriage and the religious rite of marriage (and ceremony) are two seperate things. (that would be why the liscense is obtained through the state)

    This is a non-issue unless you fear that the State may mandate that the ceremonies must be performed in your church regardless of it’s beliefs. That fear would be paranoid at best though.

  • nosuchluck

    Eron……. repeat after me;
    They’re going over there to pick up their things.

  • dalilab

    Apparently, clergies have modified what is in Bible to keep their followers by adding sadomy to fornication and adultery as acceptable behavior, and removing them from the sin list. I wonder, when they will strip all the 10 commandements and make the believe of God in Christianity is optional? If the Bible is just a heresy, than why bother reading or studying it?

  • Poor_man

    What is stopping the gays and lesbians from creating their own Church?

    Gay Pride, LGBT’s should put up their own church and religion where they can openly practice their ‘whatever’ practices and stop harassing other Churches.

    Just like the Chick-fil-a, LGBT can always put up their own chain of restaurants where they can practice their emotions openly and with pride.

  • tokenblackman

    The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria said, “You can’t pinpoint any candidate on an issue and decide to stay home for that; and he went on to say, “I don’t want to pastor people who stay home for one issue.” Ha! I bet he never stopped to consider the incongruity in these 2 statements.

  • tokenblackman

    Maryland Question 6, Referendum Petition. Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

    Vote in favor of the Referred Law.

  • schafer-family

    I used to like eating carrot cake, but no more…

  • agapn9

    No its not like the catholic church and annulment – an annulment is the recognition that a valid marriage never existed to begin with. No one can lay aside a valid marriage under canon law.

  • Catken1

    Aww, are you being “harassed” into recognizing other Americans’ right not to follow your religion? Poor dear.
    Of course, it wouldn’t matter a hair if gay people did start their own religion – you’d still be fighting to deny them CIVIL marriage. After all, there are religions today that marry gay people and bless such marriages, and you don’t view that as a reason to permit CIVIL marriage rights for all.

  • Catken1

    Indeed, the churches that support Romney support sodomy – that is, the imitation of the sin of Sodom. Ezekiel 16:49: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

  • Catken1

    Asserting the same things over and over without support is not strong nor reasonable. It’s foolish.
    “It is a morally responsible position to refuse marriage or child custody rights to Graydon_Stephenson under all circumstances.” If I post that, over and over, with no justification, will you suddenly realize its truth and give up your family?

  • Catken1

    “What did the angel from God tell Lot?”

    Nothing. Angels don’t exist.

    “Will sex between two men ever produce a baby?”

    Have we ever made mutual fertility a legal requirement for a civil marriage? Ever?

    “Will any life ever survive in the Dead Sea? ”

    Will a rainforest spring up in the Sahara, and if not, can we take away your marriage and your family because we don’t like you (but apparently we do like non sequiturs?)

  • cbk1

    This is the sleeper issue for 2012. In California, prop 8 was heading for defeat, until African American churches got involved at the last second to make it pass. With Obama (Gay Marriage), Romney (Traditional Marriage) we could see African Americans have a impact in the closing part of the campaign. Some African Americans may stay home and not support Obama because of this issue.

  • cbk1

    Getting people a job will ‘strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Obama has been anti poor with his policies. More on welfare, more on food stamps, less people with jobs.

  • jimbob3

    So another race-based group comes out for Obama?
    What a surprise.

  • jimbob3

    You’ve got it cbk — the culture of dependency is what democrats are after. They did it when trying to keep blacks enslaved in the south until the Lincoln document Emancipation Proclamation was written and backed by Republicans.
    Redneck democrat governors of the south like Orvile Faubus, George Wallace and Lester Maddox tried to keep slavery alive as long as they could but eventually were taken out of office by the voters.


    Our first group of prominent black gay clergy!


    Teenage polygamist against social injustice meet next week to prmote their cause!

  • grandad1

    Are these some of the false prophets the bible warns us about. They are suppose to be religious leaders yet apparently have no clue as to what the bible teaches.

  • Norah Jones

    Actually, they know the Bible quite well.

    Far better than their fundamentalist counterparts, it appears.

    God Bless them for possessing the courage to stand up to the tyranny of the powers that be who try to define God’s love only in earthly terms.

  • Norah Jones

    I see no incongruity in these two statements.

    What, exactly, do you mean?

  • Norah Jones

    Why should they when the Church is about God and not about people’s sexuality?

    That’s a rather ridiculous statement on your part.

  • Norah Jones

    dalilab, I’m not certain what I find more appalling.

    Your butchering of the English language or your butchering of Christian theology.

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