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Sunday, September 5, 2010

THE BLACK CHURCH & GAY MARRIAGE

Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post wrote a powerful column about the recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker that overturned California's Proposition 8 law banning gay marriage: "He [Walker] frames gay marriage as a question involving the most basic, cherished rights that the Constitution guarantees to all Americans. In doing so, he raises the stakes sky-high: Are gays and lesbians full citizens of this country, or are they something else?"

The issue of the full citizenship of gays and lesbians ought to resonate with those of us who are black. The long journey of black people to full equality has revolved around the question of the legitimacy of our citizenship. Once upon a time in this country, I would have been described as being "three fifths of all other persons." Many of us observe that question still being raised as people question the birth certificate and citizenship of President Barack Obama. The conversations we're starting to hear about rescinding the 14th Amendment have a familiar ring to any student of history. I have often said, "The music of legal segregation may have ended, but the melody lingers on."

I have been distressed to read about young black men committing hate crimes against people whom they assume are gay. In the past, negative attitudes in many white Christian churches toward blacks precipitated the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. We must not allow negative attitudes about gays within the black church or elsewhere within our community to justify violence against them.

I say this as someone who has been an ordained United Methodist minister for 54 years and who has pastored black and white churches in five states. I was also one of the founders of the United Methodist Black Caucus, Black Methodists for Church Renewal and United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church. I am also an honorary member of the board of preachers of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.

I have heard a number of arguments against gay marriage within the black church and larger African-American community, arguments that are all too reminiscent of another time and place -- and struggle -- in this country.

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