Originally created 03/28/04

Blacks vs. gays



As far as hundreds of African-American pastors are concerned, the gay rights movement - which likes to compare itself to the civil rights movement of the 1960s - has pushed the envelope a little too far with its call to legalize same-sex marriages.

The pastors held a high-profile public rally in Atlanta Monday, where they pointed out that homosexuality is about conduct, which people can control, not color, which they can't. "To equate a lifestyle choice to racism," they declared in an official statement, "demeans the work of the entire civil rights movement."

The declaration continued, "People are free in our nation to pursue relationships as they choose. To redefine marriage, however, to suit the preference of those choosing alternative lifestyles is wrong."

All the protesting pastors signed the statement, the purpose of which is to make clear they support a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would bar gay marriage.

They do not think the current statute prohibiting the bizarre nuptials is enough. As has happened in some other states, activist judges could overturn the ban, or they could rule that Georgia must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Leadership in the black community that supports traditional cultural norms, such as heterosexual marriage, is welcome news. It puts in proper perspective the huge, glaring differences between African Americans' grim, centuries-long fight for basic human rights and gay people's dilettante campaign to marry each other.

"When the homosexual compares himself to the black community, he doesn't know what suffering is," said the Rev. Clarence James, an African-American studies professor at Temple University. He is right, of course.

Yes, there are incidents of discrimination toward gay people, but nowhere near the scale of what has been done to black people. Homosexuals have never been slaves, or the victims of Jim Crow laws or denied the right to vote.

Nor could most blacks ever pass themselves off as white to escape persecution. Homosexuals never had a problem passing themselves off as heterosexuals when they needed a safe harbor.

We commend the black pastors for their strong stand in support of traditional marriage. It couldn't have been easy for them, as the natural tendency for most African-American leaders - political, cultural or religious - is to move left and vote Democrat.

Hopefully, the same-sex marriage controversy, where the left is soft, will start moving many blacks to the right, where African Americans' culturally conservative values are best represented.