A Little Rock, Ark., minister spoke at a rally on the steps of the state capitol on Friday and declared that the country was strong because it values the traditional family, with an opposite-sex couple at its core. The rally, at which the Reverend Charles E. Williams spoke, was sponsored by the Coalition for Family and American Values, which supports a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriages.
About 150 people showed up to support the proposed amendment, and many of them signed petitions to get the proposal on the November 2 general election ballot. The rally had all the trappings of a religious revival--including fiery preaching, enthusiastic responses called out from the crowd, and, at the end, an invitation to come to Christ. Williams, pastor of the Covenant of Zion Cathedral Church of Little Rock, said marriage between people of the opposite sex was ordained by God. He told the audience, mostly black, that same-sex marriage was not a matter of civil rights. He was dismayed, he said, to hear Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., claim recently that same-sex
marriage was a civil rights concern.
King's husband, Williams said, "must have turned over in his grave" as his widow said those words. Williams said civil rights concern who and what a person is, things that person has no choice over. But he said homosexuality is a matter of choice, a lifestyle that some people choose to live. "We can't help our color," he said. "But you can do something about your lifestyle."
Other speakers included Perry Oliver of North Little Rock, who said he was an "ex-homosexual" but was now happily married to a woman he called up to the lectern to stand by his side. "If you don't believe you can change, God is my witness," Oliver said. "It is a struggle...but if you want to change, you can change."
Among the spectators was Robert Loyd, 54, of Conway, who took part in a ceremony on the capitol steps on February 29 marking his commitment to his longtime partner, John Schenk. Loyd said he attended the rally--and came in the Army uniform he wore 35 years ago--to make a statement and to hear what the other side had to say. "I fought a very long time ago, in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, for the values they're trying to take away from us now," Loyd said.