Black Pastors and Gay Rights: DC Becomes a Battleground
Posted on June 15, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
The nation’s capital is suddenly center court in America’s loud argument over gay marriage. Nothing new about that, except that this time the battle is being hashed out in the streets, churches and living rooms in working class wards of the city. While there is something poignant about both sides literally singing the same hymn (“We Shall Overcome”) at its rallies, there is also something refreshing about the debate taking place in the unofficial part of Washington, D.C: For once, it’s not partisan.That is not to say it’s not a touchy issue. Gay marriage pits race and faith together in the same combustible conversation, and does so in a community in which both are sacrosanct subjects. The black Christian church predates Emancipation by more than two centuries, and served as a bulwark against the pernicious effects of slavery, Jim Crow, alcohol and drugs, AIDS, poverty, crime, police brutality and bad schools.
In the face of all that, African-American pastors and their churches have offered up faith and love of family as twin defenses. Thus they have been an institution with a message that at its core is fundamentally conservative. And at the same time, it was from the pulpits of these very same black churches that emanated the commanding voices that demanded fundamental change to the old order. Make no mistake, the moral authority and raw political power of the civil rights movement was rooted in these self-same churches. And in that sense they were a liberating, as well as a stabilizing, force.
These contradictory forces of liberalism and conservatism have coexisted, not always easily, for centuries within the church. But gay marriage has opened a chasm in the black community, in which, to paraphrase (and modernize) Lincoln who, while speaking about the North and South during the Civil War, observed that each side reads the same bible, prays to the same God, invokes His wisdom against the other – and belongs to the same political party.
In the local politics of Washington, the true power brokers are predominately black, monolithically Democratic and tuned into the religious sensibilities of their constituents. Thus, the discussion taking place here over gay marriage is really a series of conversations; some within the black community and some within the Christian churches, and almost all of it within the Democratic Party. This is not altogether a bad thing. For starters, there’s no Republican bogeyman, and for another, the race card is played to establish one’s bona fides, not to stoke prejudice. Finally, the church-bashing rhetoric one finds in other places where this debate is taking place is muted here: Attacking the church would simply be a good way to lose the argument. And judging by the language being invoked by both sides, the stakes of this argument are high: Leaders of competing camps clearly believe that what unfolds here in unofficial Washington will be a harbinger for where this nation is heading on gay rights.
“The march towards equality is coming to this country, and you can either be a part of it or stand in the way,” David Catania, one of two openly gay D.C. Council members, declared on May 5, as the council approved his pro-gay marriage measure.
“This is the Armageddon of the marriage debate,” was the rejoinder offered by Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and author of a petition seeking to have the question put on the ballot for every voter in Washington. “It’s a declaration of war.” See Black Pastors and Gay Rights: DC Becomes a Battleground
Both black and gay: Internal rights fight
Statewide Action: On Heels of Prop 8 Ruling, “Meet in the Middle for Equality” Rallies ,Civil Rights Advocates in Fresno for LGBT Equality on a Federal Level
Ward 8 Democrats Act Ahead of D.C. Council Legislation
LOS ANGELES: All Saints, Pasadena, clergy opt out of civil marriages until gay couples can legally wed