Used To Sell A Mirage
June 6, 2006 - 3:52pm ET
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Few things hurt more deeply than the sight of passionate, and often compassionate, African-American pastors selling themselves for an illusion, with their followers applauding as if the rhetorical points their spiritual leaders scored had any meaning.
The illusion championed by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C., is that preventing gays and lesbians from getting married will somehow help solve the profound problems of family stability in African-American communities. At an outdoor press conference Tuesday across the street from the Capitol, he and his supporters—including Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. —did not present any real evidence, but instead offered a confusion of correlation with causality that is all too typical of what passes for debate on social issues by conservatives. Out-of-wedlock births among African-American women have increased dramatically (up to 66 percent of all births in the 1990s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau ), and so has gay rights activism. Jackson’s supporters, many of whom wore black T-shirts bearing the image of a man, woman and child, were not arguing any connection beyond that.
In fact, when I asked Jackson to cite examples from his ministry in which people were having marital difficulties that were related to the push for same-sex marriage, he did not cite any, instead saying, "The issue is not same-sex marriage per se, it is traditional marriage."
The news conference showed the extent to which church leaders in communities grappling with serious social problems have been sucked into supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage even though there is no connection between gay marriage and the ills they profess to be concerned about.
In doing so, they served as unabashed props for conservatives who are trying to convince voters their fight against gay people does not bear the vestiges of 20th century racism and sexism. "Anybody who thinks you're a bigot for supporting this amendment, I hope they get a picture of this scene here," a beaming Brownback said as black and white people stood together behind him.
Brownback's homage to racial diversity, of course, misses the point. While "homophobia" is colloquially used to refer to hatred of gays and lesbians, its core definition is the fear of them. What drove Tuesday morning's event was the fear that allowing one group—same-gender-loving people—to enjoy the civil benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples (regardless of their parental status) would mean a loss for heterosexual couples generally and African-Americans specifically. Thus Jackson’s call, as he put it, to “stop the madness.”
Their fear is such that they would trample the core precept of the civil rights movement, that a majority—no matter how strongly held their position is—does not have the right to deny a minority the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because of characteristics innate to their personhood. Jackson admitted as much when asked why he believed his theological position that marriage is God-ordained to be only between a man and a woman should be enshrined in the Constitution, a secular document, when there is a significant segment of the religious community, both Christian and non-Christian, that disagrees. “Because it is the majority view, according to all of the polls in America,” he said.
The overwhelming majority view in America in 1967—72 percent, according to a Gallup poll—was that interracial marriage is wrong. That was the year that the U.S. Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia , ruled that state laws preventing interracial marriage were unconstitutional. No one mentioned that by their standard, the Supreme Court in that case and in several others—including Brown v. Board of Education in 1954—should have bowed to majority opinion and kept segregation and miscegenation laws in place.
Yet Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., who is desperately breathing life into her bid for a Senate seat, brashly declared, “We will not allow our courts to redesign society into some politically correct utopia.”
“That’s right,” one of the African-American ministers on the podium declared as the crowd applauded and cheered. It was as if for a moment the ghosts of George Wallace and his segregationist sycophants had possessed the crowd in a bizarre recreation of his infamous standoffs.
We can only hope that the emptiness and hypocrisy of their arguments will be their undoing.
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