Before the opening
of the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic
National Party released its 2012 platform. Its theme
– “Moving America Forward.” One of the major party
planks in the platform is its full-throated support
of marriage equality.
The big worry is that African
Americans might not come out to the polls in large
numbers this November.
the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities,
and protections under the law. We support marriage
equality and support the movement to secure equal
treatment under law for same-sex couples.”
Obama supporters embrace the platform’s theme of “Moving
America Forward” but feel that the party’s support
of same-sex marriage is risky if not outright political
suicide in such a tight and contentious race for the
“We also support
the freedom of churches and religious entities to
decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament
without government interference,” the platform states.
With one of Obama’s largest and most
loyal voting blocks being African Americans who are
also largely Democratic and conservative Christians,
the big worry is not that African Americans would
overwhelmingly cast a ballot for Mitt Romney; it’s
that they might not come out to the polls in large
numbers this November.
according to the Pew Research Center,
approximately 95 percent of the African American populace
cast their ballot for Obama, and only 26 percent were
in favor of same-sex marriage.
Obama publicly announced his support for marriage
equality in May, according to Pew results in April,
49 percent of African Americans were not in favor
of same-sex marriage while only 39 percent were. And
since Obama’s announcement the numbers of those in
opposition to same-sex marriage have not declined
among the black churched populace. As a matter of
fact, some African American ministers have come out
more forcefully against Obama.
The Rev. William Owens,
president and founder of the Memphis-based Coalition
of African Americans Pastors, is one of them. Given
his influence and clout among black clerics in the
area, Owens feels that the president has gone too
far in extending his civil rights hand toward lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) Americans.
Owens told the Associated Press in late July
that he “would lead a national effort to rally black
Americans to rethink their overwhelming support of
the president over the same-sex issue and ‘save the
Owens is outraged and feels the president
is taking the African American vote for granted. While
I would like to dismiss Owens’ rant as just another
homophobic minister and an outlier in what I perceive
will be a huge turn out of black voters for Obama,
sadly, to date Owens has parlayed his outraged into
a small but growing movement. He has over 3,742 African
Americans ministers and their churches on board with
his anti-Obama vote campaign.
time has come for a broad-based assault against the
powers that be that want to change our culture to
one of men marrying men and women marrying women,”
Owens told CNN after he launched his anti-Obama
vote campaign event at the National Press Club. “I
am ashamed that the first black president chose this
road, a disgraceful road.”
are African Americans, especially conservative Christians,
still stuck on this issue?
reason is that church doctrine throughout all the
African American denominations hasn’t changed on the
topic of homosexuality, keeping the church tethered
to an outdated notion of human sexuality, and a wrong-headed
notion on what constitutes civil rights.
Another reason is that many African
American ministers still believe the institution of
marriage, at least within the black family, is under
assault, and LGBTQ people further exacerbate the problem.
The liability of Obama losing
his 2012 reelection bid seems far greater than being
publicly outed for not being in lockstep with their
these ministers, some of whom support LGBTQ civil
rights but draw the line on same-sex marriage, espousing
their opposition to same-sex marriage is a prophylactic
measure to combat the epidemic of fatherlessness in
black families. In scapegoating the LGBTQ community,
these clerics are ignoring the social ills behind
black fatherlessness, such as the systematic disenfranchisement
of both African American men and women, high unemployment,
high incarceration, and poor education, to name a
There are, however, African
American ministers who have come out in support of
Obama’s stance on marriage equality.
these African American ministers, the liability of
Obama losing his 2012 reelection bid seems far greater
than being publicly outed for not being in lockstep
with their homophobic brethren. But their efforts
to get their conservative parishioners to the ballot
box must far exceed those in opposition.
the first African-American president loses his reelection
bid because of certain black pastors’ homophobic views
on marriage equality, that would be tragic, and history
would not look kindly on their actions.
is the president of the United
States, not the pastor of the
States. He’s the president of
all the people, not some of the people.
African Americans who have battled for centuries against
racial discrimination, we have always relied on our
president and his administration to fight for and
uphold our civil rights, because too many pastors
across the country and throughout centuries wouldn’t
Editorial Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene
Monroe, is a religion columnist, theologian, and public
speaker. She is the Coordinator of
the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the
Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological
Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor
at an African-American church before coming to Harvard
Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow.
She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an
African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for
a sector of society that is frequently invisible.
Her website is
to contact the Rev. Monroe.