More than two dozen black pastors added their voice to the critics of same-sex marriage, attempting to differentiate the civil rights struggle from the gay rights movement and "defend" marriage as a union between a man and a woman. "When the homosexual compares himself to the black community, he doesn't know what suffering is," said the Reverend Clarence James, an African-American studies professor at Temple University.
James and 29 other pastors rallied late Monday with their supporters at an Atlanta-area church where they signed a declaration outlining their beliefs on marriage and religion.
The declaration is meant to pressure state representatives to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriages, which will be considered again by the Georgia house as soon as this week. The declaration, to be presented to state leaders Tuesday, says same-sex marriage is not a civil right and that marriage between a man and a woman is important because it's necessary for the upbringing of children. "To equate a lifestyle choice to racism demeans the work of the entire civil rights movement," the statement said. "People are free in our nation to pursue relationships as they choose. To redefine marriage, however, to suit the preference of those choosing alternative lifestyles is wrong."
Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Georgia, but supporters of the ban say the constitution needs to be changed to make sure a judge does not direct Georgia to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
But the Reverend Paul Turner, a gay pastor from Atlanta who helped organize a pro-gay marriage rally last month outside the Georgia capitol, disagreed: "How do they figure that it's not a civil rights issue? This is just a way for those conservative leaders in the black community to say, 'Look, this isn't a matter of civil rights, because we're black and we didn't have a choice in being black.' And they think gays do, and that's not true."