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Religious Tolerance logo

Movement toward same-sex marriage (SSM), LGBT equality etc.

2012-MAY: Part 5: A range of reactions by
African Americans and Canadians

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We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This is a continuation from Part 4

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Reaction among African American voters:

The reaction among African Americans towards President Obama's decision and towards same-sex marriage in general is complex. Their response is an important factor for his re-election campaign. Over 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama in 2008.

  • Some resent that many Americans are regarding same-sex marriage as a new civil rights struggle. Their ancestors had endured horrendous oppression, lynching, and denigration as slaves for centuries in America. They have observed many people emphasize women's equality and now LGBT equality as new civil rights battles. Some feel that this dilutes the public's appreciation and understanding of black experiences and those of previous African American generations.

  • On the other hand, some African Americans have welcomed the new emphasis on human rights for the LGBT community. They have been motivated by their experience to work for equality for persons of all races, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc.

  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

  • The percentage of African Americans who are also evangelical Christians is higher than the national average. Being conservative Christians, they tend to interpret the six "clobber passages" in the Bible as condemning all forms of same-gender sexual behavior. In common with most other evangelicals, they denigrate the growing movement towards equality for the LGBT community, including marriage equality.

  • The response of black churches during 2012-MAY reflects these conflicts within the African American community. USA Today reports that:
    • Some pastors did not mention President Obama's decision in their sermons.
    • Some criticized Obama's decision but spoke positively about the president.
    • A few criticized both President Obama and his decision.
    • A few spoke positively about both the president and his decision.

    • Bishop Timothy Clark, at the First Church of God, in Columbus, OH, opposes both civil and religious same-sex marriages. He considers it as more than a social issue. It is also a religious one for those who follow a literal interpretation of the Bible. He said:

      "The spiritual issue is ground in the word of God. ... No church or group is monolithic. Some [members of the congregation] were powerfully agitated and disappointed. Others were curious — why now? to what end? Others were hurt. And others, to be honest, told me it's not an issue and they don't have a problem with it. ... I believe the statement the president made and his decision was made in good faith. I am sure because the president is a good man. I know his decision was made after much thought and consideration and, I'm sure, even prayer."

      Clark asked his church "to pray for the president and pray this will not become a political football with uncivil language and heated rhetoric. We can disagree on this, as we do on many things, and still love each other."

    • Dwight McKissic, senior pastor at the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, said:

      "President Obama has betrayed the [literal interpretation of the] Bible and the black church with his endorsement of same-sex marriage."

    • Enoch Fuzz of the Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church of Nashville, TN said:

      "I know many in the black community have trouble accepting gay marriage. But all of us have gay friends or family, and we love them. ... There's really no better [voting] option. People are not going to go out and vote for Mitt Romney."

    • Ron Gates is the president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Asheville/Buncombe County in North Carolina. Both he and his organization were strong supporters of Amendment One in that state. It amended the Constitution so that future bills in the Legislature and rulings by state courts could not legalize civil unions, domestic partnerships, same-sex marriages, or any other recognition of same-gender relationships. He did not focus on the Presidents announcement but made it "a footnote" to his sermon.

    • Keith Ogden, pastor of the predominantly black Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville, said:

      "I support my president and love my president, but I think he is wrong. He is not God, and he doesn't speak for all black folk because he is African American."

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    2012-MAY-11 and later: Canadian reactions to President Obama's disclosure:

    Canada legalized same-sex marriage (SSM) in mid-2005. Public support for SSM at the time mirrored the situation in the U.S. in 2012: About 55% of adults favored SSM; support was much higher for adults under 35 years-of-age and much lower for persons 55 and over. In Canada, the definition of marriage is a federal responsibility. Thus, the passage of a single federal law, C-35, legalized SSM across all 10 provinces and 3 territories. SSM become routine by 2012, and is not the topic of significant controversy in Canada except among evangelical groups and evangelicals as well as the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Diana Swift, a staff writer for the Anglican Journal commented on President Obama's decision. She wrote:

    "The Anglican Journal spoke about Obama's change of heart to the diocese of Montreal's [Quebec] Bishop Barry Clarke, who also supports same-sex marriage and civil unions between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005.

    Bishop Clarke said:

    "From my perspective, this is a good-news story, especially as a statement from someone with such political clout and international presence," says Clarke. 'It's a good way to move forward for the community'." 3

    Clarke wonders, however, about Obama's motives at this election year and also whether he may have created a problem for himself at the voting booths come November. He concedes the declaration may be driven by political expediency or it may be a case of 'someone bold enough to stand up regardless and say, ‘We have to move forward around this issue of human rights, justice, dignity and equal treatment.' ' Equality—in health care and the military, for example—has been one of Obama's strongest platforms.

    On the opposite side of the country, Bishop William Anderson of the diocese of Caledonia [in British Columbia] expresses an opposing view.

    'I'm rather cynical when it comes to politicians in the middle of a campaign, and I wonder if the president should be making these personal declarations or should he be representing the thinking of the majority of the people.'

    One of his primary concerns as a clergyman is whether marriage can be redefined to suit this cause. He said:

    'I would argue that theologically it cannot. We can pass political resolutions until the cows come home, but that does not change the inherent reality of what marriage is.' 

    He feels that to accept same-sex marriage for political advantage without informed debate is the wrong way to go. He said:

    'It's dangerous to close down the debate in response to accusations of being homophobic or reactionary. That precludes discussion on whether same-sex marriage is possible or healthy.'

    Anderson feels that children need the balance of both a male and a female parental model." 3

    In his posting, Bishop Anderson writes that a government cannot redefine the inherent reality of what marriage is. However, some would suggest that it is up to the government(s) to establish what criteria should be met before a couple can obtain a marriage license. Then, it is up to each religious denomination to decide separately which couples with a marriage license they will accept as candidates for marriage. That is, there can be multiple definitions of marriage in a country or state: one for civil marriage and one for religious marriage. That is the situation in Canada. Same-sex couples have a legal right to marry in a civil ceremony. But faith groups can decide whether to agree to marry them or not in a religious ceremony or sacrament. Generally speaking, the liberal/progressive Christian denominations will quite happily marry same-sex couples, while conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics will not. The system seems to work well.

    Bishop Anderson talks about the importance of informed debate, which of course has been underway for as many as four decades in some denominations. There have been cases where denominations have declared a moratorium on the debate. But, to our knowledge, no denomination has implemented SSM and then terminated future debate.

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    References used:

    These information sources were used to prepare & update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

    1. Dennis Capuchin, "Black churches conflicted on Obama's gay marriage decision," USA Today, 2012-MAY-13, at:
    2. Diana Swift, "Obama’s affirmation of same-sex marriage strikes a chord," Anglican Journal, 2012-MAY-11, at:

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    How you got here:

    Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage > SSM sub-menu > Obama support > here

    Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage > SSM sub-menu > Tipping point> Obama support > here

    Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Agenda & news >LGBT News> Obama support > here

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    Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
    First posted: 2012-MAY-09
    Latest update: 2012-MAY-14
    Author: B.A. Robinson
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