Will Gay Marriage Divide Black Electorate?

Larry Miller | 5/16/2012, 4:32 p.m.

The president also said that he respected the beliefs of others and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines but he said that he believed that in the eyes of the law all Americans should ne treated equally and no federal law should invalidate same sex marriages in a state that enacted it.

Reverend Clarence James, a Black minister based in Chicago said he definitely believes the president's move is going to hurt him among African-American voters, many of whom oppose same sex marriage.

"Many of us oppose this in every form and may decide to vote against the president because of this," James said. "From a medical and psychological point of view homosexuality is a mental illness; for male homosexuals anal sex is medically dangerous. The president is coming at this as a civil rights issue but there is no correlation even though the homosexual community is trying to make it one. The Civil Rights Movement was about freedom and equal rights, this is a moral issue. For the president and other elected officials it's easier to go along with popular opinion rather than to do what's right."

But some members of the African-American clergy have a different point of view regarding this issue. They believe the African-American community should find ways to address same sex relationships and that there can be reconciliation between sex and spirituality.

"If every gay person in our church just left or those who have an orientation or preference or an inclination, or a fantasy, if everyone left, we wouldn't have -- we wouldn't have a church," said Bishop Carlton Pearson who heads Chicago's New Dimensions Ministries in a published report. "Homophobia is hardly unique to the African-American community. It's a social malady that's due largely to the influence of fear based-theologies, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism, all of which grow out of the Abrahamic tradition. The African-American church has traditionally used a kind of 'don't ask don't tell' approach toward homosexuality."

Dr. Janice Hollis who heads Progressive Believer's said the African-American community should look at the president's record not just on this issue but on others and determine if the quality of their lives has improved.

"I think it's an insult for the president to intellectualize on morality as if the Church doesn't already have a mandate from God on this," she said. "This is a political move and even though he may not see it, he's only a fleeting moment in history; God has always been there. I think the president is promoting a way of life that deters people away from the Word of God."

Reverend Bill Owens, a minister with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and who is based in Memphis, Tennessee, said there's no doubt that the president's endorsement of same sex marriage is going to hurt him among Black voters.

"Absolutely it will and especially among the Black churches where the conviction against same sex marriage is so strong," Owens said. "I think many Black Christians feel somewhat betrayed by the president on this -- this is something that Black churches have always stood firmly against."