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Why are Black Clergy Anti-Marriage Equality?

By Antonio L. Ellis
On May 9, 2010, President Barack Obama said in an interview with ABC News “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” With that one statement, he made it clear that he believes that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships from getting married. Obviously, the President has spent time giving this issue serious consideration, and his view has been shaped by conversations with his family, his friends, neighbors, and the people who work with him at the White House. In the interview, he said that he had discussed the issue around the dinner table with his wife and daughters. He said he’d heard from service members who, even after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, felt constrained because they weren’t allowed to get married.  In the end, the President said, he believes it’s important to “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

The President’s statement resulted in knee-jerk reactions from religious leaders throughout America, particularly those who lead Black Mega Churches. The majority of Black pastors disagree with marriage equality; some are in limbo; while a few are in support of same-sex marriage. Most Black pastors who disagree with marriage equality say they feel “betrayed by the President.” It is ironic that in 2007, the President highlighted eight issues during his campaign. Those issues were education, environment, equal rights, health care, jobs and the economy, national security, student loan forgiveness, and the Wall Street reform. Interestingly, those same ministers were content with the Presidents’ decisions as long as they were benefiting over the past four years. This seems to be a reflection of selfishness. None of these pastors challenged the President when he signed the health care bill, captured Bin Laden, or decreased unemployment rates.

Most of these pastors are using the bible as their platform against President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. First and foremost, everyone should realize that he is the President of the United States of America, not only the Christians of America. Same-gender marriage is more about equal rights, and less about personal religious beliefs, traditions, and jargon. Contrary to popular belief, the quest for marriage equality stands parallel to what African Americans endured in order to achieve voting rights, equal employment opportunities, among various other rights that Blacks were not privy to prior to the civil rights movement. Many religious leaders seem to have forgotten that White slave owners used the bible to justify why they enslaved people of color. Even President George Bush claimed to be a devout Christian, and said on many occasions that he was led by God for his political decision making, specifically regarding abortion and same-gender marriage. However, he seemed to have turned a deaf ear to God regarding other issues that tangibly impacts everyone such as education, health care, etc. In regards to issues outside of abortion and same-gender marriage, the rich and famous seemed to have been the only beneficiaries. After President Bush used those two issues to get re-elected, ironically he no longer spent time focusing on those two issues that really have little importance on the broader society. However, if politicians say they are anti-abortion or same-gender marriage, it is nearly a guaranteed method to gain votes from religious people of color.

Interestingly, a remnant of Black pastors who adamantly protest against same-gender marriage has faced public morality issues themselves over the past decade. For example, well known Black ministers – Rev. Jamal Harrison-Bryant and Bishop Eddie Long have used the bible as their foundation to speak out blatantly against same-gender marriages. In December 2004, the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta Georgia, Bishop Eddie Long, led a 25,000 person march against gay rights and marriage equality.

Contrary to what Bishop Long marched against, on September 22, 2010, the Bishop who is known for his public crusades against homosexuality faced serious allegations. Two young men who were members of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church filed lawsuits claiming he used his position as their spiritual counselor to coerce them into sexual relationships. The men – Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20 – alleged that Long used a private spiritual ceremony to mark a “covenant” between them, with both becoming his “spiritual son.”

On February 16, 2008, the highly regarded pastor of the Empowerment Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church of Baltimore Maryland, Rev. Jamal Harrison-Bryant, was featured in The Baltimore Sun Newspaper reporting that he and his wife, Gizelle, filed for divorce after being married for 5 ½ years. In Gizelle Bryant’s filing, she accused her husband of adultery, cruel treatment, and “excessively vicious conduct” that caused “reasonable apprehension of bodily suffering so as to render cohabitation unsafe.” To add insult to injury, Rev. Harrison-Bryant’s adultery behavior allegedly resulted in a 17 year-old member of his congregation becoming impregnated.

Bishop Long and Rev. Harrison-Bryant are highly regarded pastors in the African American Christian community. It’s about time Black pastors agreed to disagree, however, at the same time be fair to all persons, including same-gender couples who desire marriage. How can a pastor adamantly preach against same-gender marriage and be reported for molesting teenage boys? Better yet, how can a pastor preach anti-marriage equality and be reported for impregnating a 17 year old congregant? This article does not seek to separate Long and Bryant from other anti-equal rights clergy. The only thing that separates these two ministers and others are the fact that “they were exposed.” The obligation of the faith community is to build each other up, not tear one another down.

Although most Black pastors are against marriage equality, other pastors are standing for equal rights for all people, not excluding those of the LGBT community. A few of those pastors and ministers include Dr. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University, Dr. Ronald Hopson of Howard University, Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago Illinois, Rev. Aaron Jones-Wade of the Community Church of Washington DC United Church of Christ and Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, among several others.

In closing, I quote a verse from the National Negro Anthem “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray.

Keep the Faith!

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9 Responses to Why are Black Clergy Anti-Marriage Equality?

  1. ICDATRUTH Reply

    May 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Why don’t all of these anti-gay pastors give all of their gay members their tithes back? Why have’nt they purged their choir sections of gays? These self righteous clowns tend to forget the main tenet of the Bible “live and let live” and “treat those the same way that you would want to be treated”

    Marriage is a religous ceremony rather many of you believe it or not and should be treated as such. If you don’t believe me ask your pastor to marry you and your significant other and try to collect benefits without a marriage license. Why can’t they agree on a civil union, since that is what is anyway? Besides that no one is forcing them to marry gays in their church, so what is really the problem?

  2. tewdrowos Reply

    May 31, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    THe Black Church is full of GAY and Bi-Sexual people,so stop pretending that this life style choice is a big thing…beside’s they often provide the best entertainment in the church with the great singing and piano playing,oh yea and choir directing…

  3. nofyfb Reply

    May 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Same sex marriage is a morality issue. period. and black people dont have to co-sign with your backward asses. Get off the coat-tails of the civil rights movement- slavery was a violation against humanity- and its devastating effects can still be seen today- two men wanting to be Husband and Husband (aka sodomites) is a personal issue. GTFOH.

    • Sean Reply

      June 1, 2012 at 5:36 am

      So basically, you’re saying that unless there is violence, discrimination is OK? Was stopping a white man from marrying a black woman in VA not simply a lifestyle choice? Did the Civil Rights Heroes not borrow pages from Ghandi’s non-violent resistance tactics to achieve equality? Was the person who tutored King on non-violence not gay himself? (See Bayard Rustin).

      You know nothing of your own history, so you may not stand to ‘defend’ it against those who have been through every atrocity that any minority has ever seen. Slavery, holocaust, genocide…gays were there for it all. Their struggles shall not be downplayed by the complacent grandchildren of the actual Civil Rights Movement Heroes.

    • JQM Reply

      June 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      I always am wondering what world people live in where they can reduce same-sex couples “lifestyles” to being simply a “personal issue.” All across this country young LGBT folks are being beaten and slaughtered for their assumed sexuality. I will also remind you that because of the hatred toward gays perpetuated by you and the church, many of our children (who are presumed to be gay because they are different) are also under attack. WE have to create an environment where people’s lives are valued. IN THIS COUNTRY, the value of human life comes in the form of rights and access. Now if can change that tradition, then we can talk about dismissing marriage and the other rights/benefits that same-sex individuals deserve.

    • gunzNrosez Reply

      June 2, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      thumbs up!

  4. nell Reply

    July 28, 2012 at 9:42 am

    In the Black community, too many of our preachers are self appointed, uneducated and charismatic. They offer excellent Sunday performances and placate the masses, do little for the community and drive big cars to their million dollar mansions. They spew ignorance, based upon their limited interpretation of scriptures and keep women (particularly) in our community in a state of fear and servitude.

  5. African daughter Reply

    July 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Would be nice if we had this much controversy over Molestation and Pedophilia in the Black community here and throughout Africa with the White Male homosexual pedophiles using africa as a favorite playground (and now asia). I am sure we would see a LOT less numbers of folk fighting for gay rights if they thought they would have support fighting to stop pedophilia. instead they will go to there graves with what has happened to them or the the Gay rights parade, from here to south africa.

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