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Blacks and same-sex marriage

Maya Rhodan | 4/6/2013, 8:13 a.m.
(NNPA) Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, and Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the ...
Pastor Amos Brown, left, supports same-sex marriage. Pastor Anthony Evans opposes same-sex marriage. Photo courtesy of NNPA

— DOMA passed in 1996 under President Bill Clinton, restricts same-sex couples from interstate recognition and federal benefits such as tax returns and Social Security survivors’ benefits. The constitutionality of

DOMA was argued in front of the Supreme Court on March 27.

If the Supreme Court declares a ban on same-sex marriage in California unconstitutional, that decision could have an effect on all states, something Evans says he’s not worried about.

“The Supreme Court can say they have a right to marry, but that doesn’t mean we have to respect that,” Evans says. “It doesn’t mean we have to marry them either.”

Brown of San Francisco does not perform same-sex marriages, but that hasn’t dampened his support for them.

“This nation is not a theocracy, it’s a democracy,” Brown says. “I think that Black people must also remember that we got our rights based on that 14th Amendment, I think that it’s wrong for any Black preacher to do to others what has been done to them. We ought to just let people be different and be who they are. If we get to that point, the better this nation will be, the better the family will be, and the better this church will be.”

Unlike the majority of Americans, Blacks do not favor same-sex marriage. Still, African Americans are becoming more open to the idea, with about 40 percent now for same-sex marriage, with about 48 percent remaining opposed to the idea, according to the Pew poll.

That’s a dramatic shift from just 10 years ago when only 26 percent of Blacks supported same-sex marriage.

What has changed?

Gavin Delisser, 22, says being exposed to more gay people while living in Atlanta led to his taking a more open-minded stance.

“I grew up in a household with my pops, who is from Jamaica, and Jamaicans are raised to think of being gay as an abomination,” Delisser says. “But living in Atlanta you can’t avoid [gay people] and you’d be ignorant to them.”

“I mind my business,” Delisser adds. “If they want to get married, that’s on them.”

Galloway says although she doesn’t believe same-sex marriage is right, she doesn’t want to be seen as a social pariah, or discriminatory towards gays, because of her religious beliefs.

“I still love [gay people], I love everyone,” Galloway says. “I don’t think it should be seen as a reason to discriminate, I just think that the Bible is pretty clear on what it says as it relates to what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Renae Brooks, 62, a retired first grade teacher in Naperville, Ill., says the reaction of church leaders has led her to look favorably upon the idea of same-sex marriage.

“Being an African American and being constantly up against discrimination, I can’t feel for a group of people that’s being treated with injustice,” Brooks says. “Everybody has a right to live the way they live,” Brooks says. “I feel like they’re being discriminated against. I don’t even know that I would be so in favor if I didn’t think they were being discriminated against.”

Brooks recalls being in Catholic mass one Sunday and listening to a priest rant about how gay couples can’t properly care for children. She says his statements upset her and contributed to her feelings of acceptance toward the gay community.

“Religious people will tell you that [being gay] is not the way it’s supposed to be ‒ but it’s also meant to not be so hateful,” Brooks says. “That’s equally as wrong.”

Evans says the clergy can’t avoid taking unpopular stands.

“Part of being a clergy is interpreting the Christian tradition through revelation, culture does not force Biblical interpretation, Biblical tradition forces culture,” Evans says. “There is a solid ethical tradition about marriage and human morality.”

Rev. Bernard Richardson, Dean of the Howard University Rankin Chapel, argues that the issue of same-sex marriage shouldn’t be seen as a religious one.

“We have couched it in a religious as opposed to a civil rights issue,” Richardson says. “I believe that the issue of same-sex marriage and gay rights is a spiritual issue in terms of our care and concern for God’s people.”