Conservative groups pushing for the passage of a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Virginia are asking leaders of the state’s minority churches for their support.

“African-American churches and social conservatives have more in common in our belief system than anyone could imagine,” Chris Freund, of the Family Foundation, told a group of mostly black and Latino ministers last month at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, reports The Associated Press.

The foundation, a major force behind the proposed constitutional amendment, has targeted some 3,000 churches, about 20 percent of them headed by black or Latino pastors, Freund told The AP.

Gay marriage is already illegal in Virginia, reports The Daily Press, but supporters of the amendment say a constitutional change is more permanent and would prevent “activist judges” from interpreting the law differently.

Similar amendments have passed in 19 states including Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky. But in Virginia passage isn’t a given.

According to Roanoke NBC affiliate WSLS Channel 10, a recent Mason Dixon poll shows only 56% approving of the gay marriage ban. That’s the lowest approval of any state that has passed the ban.

Proponents held a dozen breakfasts and luncheons including minority pastors; at least four more events are planned through the fall, Mr Freund said.

Pastors are being buffeted with booklets and DVDs, church bulletin inserts and “pastor packets” detailing what the amendment means and how to explain it to congregations.

Organisers are depending on shared religious beliefs-that gay marriage counters man and woman’s biblical roles, for instance -to break the ice before the Nov 7 election.

“There are things that my wife can do for (my daughter) that I can’t-we’re different,” Mr Freund said as the pastors nodded emphatically. “Children fare better with a mum and a dad.”

According to The AP, the black community comprise up to 18% of Virginia’s registered votes. They’re reliable Democratic voters, but many hold views to the right of the party line, said Daniel Simmons, one of two black community activists recently added at Va4Marriage, a pro-amendment campaign of the Family Foundation.

Tracy Brown, a Tidewater area coordinator with Va4Marriage, translates faith-based initiatives for 1,000 black pastors across the country through his non-profit Urban Awareness USA.

On the whole, he told The AP, the black community aren’t knowledgeable about the gay marriage issue because they are often too preoccupied with finding jobs and feeding families to pay much attention to debates on social issues.

The Reverend Allen McFarland, whose Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth draws 800 worshippers weekly, told The AP bluntly of a bigger obstacle, mistrust of white activists who show up only near election time.

“You are not going to get into the African-American community,” Mr McFarland told Mr Freund, who is white, reports The AP.

Family Foundation and Va4Marriage also have translated fliers supporting the amendment into Spanish; they’re working on Korean translations.

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