African-American Clergy Coalition speaks out on marriage

Truth is, African American pastors have been engaged in the real civil rights battle for decades, fighting to end violence and respect human dignity in their communities, while largely ignored by the media. Now that their voices are speaking out on the hot button issue of marriage law, they’re getting attention. But some media seemed not to have noticed that the day they gave the story prominence was the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Oh, the irony.

On Thursday April 4th, the Chicago Tribune ran a front page, above the fold story with the headline “Black lawmakers may hold key on gay marriage in Illinois.” It was revealing, in so many ways.

The Rev. James Meeks took to the pulpit of the enormous House of Hope at Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and exhorted his congregation to make its voice heard by lawmakers who will vote on whether to allow gay marriage in Illinois.

“We’re living in a time where, here in our own state … they are about to make the law of the land that a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman. I think it’s time for the church to wake up,” Meeks, a former state senator, said on a recent Sunday.

During Illinois’ lengthy and divisive debate on same-sex marriage, perhaps no group of lawmakers has been singled out for more intensive lobbying than African-American state representatives.

With the measure a dozen votes or less shy of the 60 required for final approval, advocates on either side of the issue consider the 20 black House members key swing votes in the spring session.

The traditionally liberal black caucus, however, has not uniformly lined up in favor of gay marriage, even as home-state President Barack Obama switched course and backed it. Only one of the 14 House co-sponsors is black.

Some African-American lawmakers are uncomfortable with characterizations of gay rights as the latest front in the civil rights movement.

Yes, for good reason. Bishop Lance Davis explained on my radio show Thursday. Here’s how the Tribune article introduced and cited him:

In mid-March, the African-American Clergy Coalition formed an independent-expenditure political action committee with $3,000 from supportive ministers.

“When I saw that the lawmakers were excited about passing legislation about same-sex marriage, it’s a slap in the face of the Bible,” said the PAC’s chairman, Lance Davis, bishop of New Zion Christian Fellowship Covenant Church in Dolton. “I didn’t see that kind of enthusiasm about stopping children from killing children in the streets.”

No kidding. The media, the president for crying out loud, have made big, momentous statements with great gravity about the killing of our children in the streets of Chicago, while supporting the termination of their lives in the womb in disproportionate numbers in African-American neighborhoods. But I’ll get back to what Bishop Davis told me in a moment.

The Tribune continues…

Rev. Davis said the same-sex marriage issue “has really galvanized us” and wants the PAC to address other issues of concern to the black community, rather than support or oppose political candidates.

And that’s where the Trib article ends its quotations and citations of Bishop Davis. The rest of the rather lengthy piece cites other figures on both sides of the marriage law battle, the lobbying efforts, the hand-wringing and moral claims and Black Caucus officials in the Illinois House, where the vote is waiting for enough supporters to bring it forward.

Rep. Ken Dunkin, the Chicago Democrat who heads the House side of the black caucus, acknowledged there is heavy pressure on African-American lawmakers from preachers to oppose the same-sex marriage bill, and there is a division among black lawmakers on the issue.

“A lot of them still say that they can’t vote” for gay marriage, said Dunkin, who supports the bill.

Some lawmakers in the black caucus don’t like th use of the term “civil right” to try to link the struggle of African-Americans to that of gays and lesbians.

“For me, and I know some wouldn’t agree, I do have trouble equating it to a civil right,” said Rep. Davis, the south suburban lawmaker who is undecided.

Then the Trib piece wraps up with this quote from Rep. Greg Harris, the House sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill:

“I think the good thing is, as people make arguments pro and con whether through lobbying or the media, public opinion is breaking…Let’s have the discussion and talk about the pros and cons and debunk the myths, and people will make the decision.”

If only that were true, that in the state of Illinois the people would make the decision. But the lawmakers of the state have taken it into their hands. So the people can only make the difference by expressing their will. Which gets back to Bishop Davis and our conversation on the air Thursday.

I referred to remarks he made in this press conference of the AACC, calling the marriage battle  a “cross culture, cross faith” issue about a “very credible and very precious institution,” and “we can ill afford to put the agenda of some, of a few, in the name of civil rights, ahead of the civil rights of our children. We are known as a place for murder among our children, and for joblessness, and hopelessness…And now our legislators are trying to redefine what marriage is. It is not government’s responsibility to define what marriage really is.”

He makes great points in the press conference, which I asked him to address. Especially from this snip:

“People often say that what’s wrong in the African American communities is their families. Their families are dysfunctional. Their families are broken up. Their families are messed up. Their husbands and fathers are not there. Then help us first, get our first work right. Help us first with all of your resources and the millions of dollars that are being spent in order to promote the same-sex marriage agenda, take that money and help us to correct our communities…our social ills.”

But don’t spend it on a campaign about marriage law as a “civil rights violation, because it’s not,” he continued. 

“What is a civil rights violation is to have children going to school with no books…to have unequal protection under the law… Breaking the rights of human beings has been the order of the day in the black community. And as a coalition, we are saying enough is enough. Let us make our first work our first work. Our first work is to improve the education of our children, not to approve same-sex legislation. Our first work is to make sure there are jobs and opportunities in hopeless and helpless communities. “

He elaborated on those points on my show and was eloquent in making an impassioned defense of the civil rights movement he’s fought for over the past 24 years, “dealing with the issue of poor education of our children that will lead to a life of violence.” But the media paid little or no attention. So on Friday morning, this coalition holds a press conference with Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago and other Catholic clergy to announce its staunch defense of marriage law and determined efforts to hold public officials accountable for their attention to priorities and civil rights in the most endangered communities.

Bishop Davis calls on the president, who came to political prominence in those same neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, to listen to the voices of these communities and their pastors and put first things first.

We should be able to talk about marriage

Exchanges were bad enough back when Proposition 8 was voted on in California, and again in the subsequent court appeals of it when people were yelling at the opposition and demonstrations got physically confrontational and some high profile people even got death threats. The passion and vitriol grew and spread after that. This week, when the Supreme Court began hearing arguments from both sides of the marriage divide, media coverage showed that we’re not having a debate of different views. We’re having a culture war.

Here’s a snapshot, in three parts…

Ryan T. Anderson is one of three authors of the book ‘What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.’ Whatever our views on marriage, I strongly believe we should be able to discuss, debate, exchange and have a proper argument in the classic intellectual tradition of both stating a case and listening to the opposing argument and engaging. And in the end, respectfully agree to disagree, but with knowledge of why the intellectual opponent believes the way they do. Civil discourse. It need not be antiquated to the times of Thomas Aquinas or G.K. Chesterton. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was great at it, for goodness sake.

But Anderson was the author of that book who appeared on several news programs this past week, and though he respectfully presented and defended his case, he got hammered by the opposing side, which was not only the other guest(s) on the panel, but the darned moderator.

Take for instance his appearance on CNN with Don Lemon as anchor. In all the time I’ve watched CNN, in all the heavy stories and issues and politics they’ve covered, I’ve never seen Lemon come undone as he did there.

Then Anderson was a guest on CNN’s Piers Morgan live, with Suze Orman representing the opposite viewpoint (and the audience stacked in favor of that argument). Piers Morgan wound up calling Anderson’s views offensive, intolerant and un-American.

The next day, Anderson appeared on The Blaze as part of a roundtable discussion, in which he was the minority. He held his own as usual, and this one was at least a bit more diplomatic, though that’s a relative term right now. As are many others in the marriage debate these days.

If we’re going to talk about marriage reasonably, and please let’s try that, the book Anderson co-authored is at least one good resource.

UPDATE: This American Thinker post, ‘Agree to Disagree?’ Not Any More, is spot on.

So, where does that get us as a nation? There will be those who set the agenda with loud voices and intimidation tactics, and those who keep their mouths shut — if they know what’s good for them. There’s almost a Germany-of-the-1930s feel in the air. It seems, America is spiraling downward and we all need to be concerned that there aren’t enough Dietrich Bonhoeffers to stop the momentum.

Obama’s unsurprising marriage epiphany

It may have erupted in the Twitterverse and on MSM sites, but the only possible surprise element may have been the timing. Maybe.

Because President Obama’s was among the most expected and awaited coming out moments in the nation. Which makes you wonder, what was outed, per se?

So President Obama has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. Now what?

His announcement Wednesday provoked an outpouring of appreciation from the gay community, but it also raised questions about whether and how it would translate into actions. Having made history as the first sitting president to support gay unions, he could leave it at that, turning his attention back to the economic concerns that remain the top priority for American voters.

(Note that sentiment. It’s important.)

But his endorsement has increased hopes among gay rights groups that Obama will take a more forceful stand on gay rights as well as gay marriage, which remains a divisive and emotional subject that could complicate his reelection efforts.

“This is the most LGBT-friendly administration in history, and the things the White House has done and the administrative agencies have done on behalf of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people are tremendous,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, which advocates for same-sex couples in the immigration system. “And yet, everybody wants full equality, not half equality.”

So this is where I have a question or thought or two. Because everything else involving Vice President Joe Biden setting the stage for this announcement, and the president’s admission which was not exactly breaking news, has received saturation coverage already. Especially as it relates to political strategy, which seems to be the driving force of this evolution.

Especially considering that it came the day after the North Carolina election in which voters again upheld the historical legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

But that’s part of my observation about this issue and very public debate. The language used to debate it.

In almost everything I heard on this issue, it was framed by media as opposition to a good, a right. And who is opposed to it (North Carolina voters being the latest) and who favors the right, such as it is claimed (the vice-president and president  being the latest). One network news commentator declared it as the civil rights issue of our time. Or at least the one I heard, while tuned in.

None of us wants to be on the wrong side of any human rights issue. Which is why it’s so strategic to make this a human rights issue. No wonder the poll numbers are changing, trending towards acceptance or approval of “same sex marriage.” By word control the merchants of ideas and politics are attempting thought control, and it works by casting a whole segment of the population as “opponents” of a “right.” When in fact what we’re talking about is the redefinition of marriage. Which changes the linguisitic calculus.

So let’s do a thought experiment: Instead of being intolerant opponents of same-sex marriage (a negative), majority voters in 32 states now (all the states where it was put to a vote) are actually proponents of the traditional definition of marriage (a positive), and opponents of that tradition are intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their views of legal recognition of marriage. Which members of the Catholic church hold as a sacrament besides a law.

Almost nobody is talking about the rights of children in this battle. Almost. But these folks are.

William B. May, founder and chairman of the San Francisco-based group that promotes Catholic social teaching on society’s common interest….[says]

“Underlying the proposal to redefine marriage, is an assumption that marriage is merely the committed relationship between two loving people…And a lot of us think of marriage in terms of the adult perspective, and the benefit for adults.”

“That’s a private interest – and that’s not what marriage really is.”

“Marriage is more than that. It’s a communion of persons. And when we look at it from the perspective of the child, it’s the heart’s desire of every person – without exception – to be united with, and to know, the man and woman that they came from. That’s part of who we are.”

“What’s happening now, with the redefinition of marriage in the minds of people, is that more and more children are becoming deprived of that experience – which is a human right – to be born into, and raised in, a family with a mother and a father united in marriage.”

Society and culture, May explained, have perennially defined marriage in this manner for the sake of binding men and women to fulfill this duty to their children.

Thus, any redefinition weakens the unique cultural and legal standing of the only institution that secures the integral bond between children and parents.

“The harm is this,” he said. “By redefining marriage as merely the public recognition of a relationship between adults, we essentially ban the promotion of marriage as the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

“It creates a conflict with the human rights of the child, to know and be cared for by their mother and father in the union of a marriage.”

May said this conflict would represent a clash between the public interest of all children – in the recognition and promotion of the type of union in which they have a right to be raised – and the private interest of homosexuals involving an essentially different type of relationship.

“To promote the unique value of the union of a man and a woman would then be legally ‘discriminatory’ against homosexuals – because it would be making a statement that one type of relationship has greater value. And it would not be permitted, if marriage is redefined as merely a committed relationship between adults.”

Not only the state, but “every institution in society,” May indicated, would then be “bound under the law” to ignore the most compelling public purpose for marriage, as a safeguard for children’s rights.

As for other ‘interest groups’ (since this is a political calculus), Elizabeth Scalia does an interesting roundup here.

My first thought was: what does this mean for the black churches? Back in 2008 it was the black Christian vote that defeated gay marriage in California. African Americans voted for Obama, but while they were there, they voted against gay marriage. It’s one of those stories no one wanted to talk about. Now, things become interesting: do African American churches, hearing the president say that “my Christian beliefs” inform this newly declared viewpoint, simply give up their own beliefs to support his or do they stand for their own? And then, who’s Christian beliefs are right? That’s a whole ball of wax I bet no one wanted to deal with in this election.

But there it is. Forcing the issue to the public arena of ideas and debate. So let it be about that, beliefs and worldviews on economic and foreign and domestic issues, and public policy on social moral issues as well as fiscal issues.

And let it be fair and honest.

Marriage changed “radically and forever”

Let’s look at the state of the union…

There are those who define and defend marriage as an institution, and a sacred one, between one man and one woman. Individual states have had a vested interest over the years in upholding  that definition. But those who have redefined marriage and mobilized a movement to change the nation’s laws governing it have won a big victory in New York.

Late Friday night, in an eleventh-hour vote on the issue, the Republican-led Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Democratic-led state Assembly had already signed off on the bill, so after the Senate vote, the only remaining piece of business required to turn the bill into law was for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it. He did so just before midnight, making the Empire State the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. (Same-sex marriage is also legal in Washington, D.C.)

WSJ has a bunch of links to other articles there, including the interesting snips from Reuters:

When New York became the sixth and by far the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, following a grueling overtime session in the state Legislature on Friday, it immediately transformed the national debate over the issue, legal experts said.

With a population over 19 million — more than the combined population of the five states that currently allow gay marriage, plus the District of Columbia, where it is also legal — New York is poised to provide the most complete picture yet of the legal, social and economic consequences of gay marriage.

Which is to say this is a huge social experiment.

If a significant portion of those couples choose to marry, it could provide a wealth of new information about the practical economic effects of such legislation, from employment and retirement benefits to divorce rates and wedding and tourism industries, said New York Law School professor Arthur Leonard.

Added Leonard: “It becomes less of an experiment the more information we have.”

But how information is handled is another thing. Truths about marriage are relative for some, absolute for others, which is why these social battles have been so passionately engaged. The difference is very revealing in the different reactions.

 The Catholic Church:

Within minutes of the result…the following statement was released by the New York bishops, who provided the measure’s lead institutional opposition:

The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.

Meanwhile, at the Gay Pride Parade

Two days after the State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage, participants in New York’s 42nd annual gay pride parade on Sunday came to shout, dance, cheer, strut, hug and shed tears of joy, knowing that on July 24, when the law takes effect, the season for tears will begin in earnest.

It was a noisy, and jubilant, day in the West Village.

Much of the cheering was aimed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, who made legalization of same-sex marriage a part of his election campaign and then led the fight for its approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

It’s a social moral issue, fundamentally human. But ultimately political. Every time this was put to a vote by the people, all 33 times, the people voted to uphold laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The politicians they elected decided otherwise.