- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

BOSTON (AP) — Conservative blacks are objecting to recent comparisons between efforts for homosexual “marriage” and civil rights movements, arguing that sexual orientation is a choice.

Links between the two struggles have been made since Massachusetts’ highest court ruled last week that the state constitution guarantees homosexual couples the right to “marry.” The court cited landmark laws that lifted bans on interracial marriage.

But the Rev. Talbert Swan II said the two struggles are not similar because blacks were lynched, denied property rights and declared inhuman.

“Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle,” he said. “I could not choose the color of my skin. … For me to ride down the street and get profiled just because of my skin color is something a homosexual will never go through.”

A poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press on Nov. 18, the day of the ruling, indicated 60 percent of blacks opposed homosexual “marriage.” Asked whether they favored legal agreements with many of the same rights as marriage, 51 percent of blacks were opposed.

Michael Adams, an attorney with the homosexual advocacy legal group Lambda Legal, said polls showed blacks support homosexuals in other areas, such as workplace equality.

Strong conservative religious values that predominate in the black community may explain the division, he said.

There are key differences in the two movements, he added, including slavery and forced segregation, which homosexuals never experienced. But the groups have experienced similar discrimination based on deeply held prejudices, he said.

Mychal Massie, a conservative columnist and member of Project 21, a Washington-based political alliance of conservative blacks, said the comparisons aren’t valid.

“It is an outrage to align something so offensive as this with the struggle of a fallen man, a great man such as Martin Luther King,” Mr. Massie said.

“The whole thing bespeaks of something much deeper and more insidious than we just want to get married,” he said. “They want to change the entire social order.”

Alvin Williams, president of the conservative Black America’s Political Action Committee, said the same-sex-union issue looks like an equal rights issue at first, but becomes a “special rights” issue after closer examination because it’s about behavior, not ethnicity.

Not everyone objects to the comparison, however. During the Nov. 19 Democratic presidential debate, black candidates Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton declared support for homosexual “marriage.” Both compared it to past discrimination against blacks.

The Rev. William Sinkford, a black man who is president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, said the struggle for homosexual civil rights is this generation’s great challenge, just as equality for blacks was the last generation’s.

“I think there’s very little to be gained by trying to create a hierarchy of oppression,” Mr. Sinkford said.

Emory College professor David Garrow said the legal histories of the two movements have abundant parallels, including the arguments that marriage between the races and unions of the same sex are unnatural and against God’s law.

Homosexuals have also seen similar bias in the workplace when they’ve made their sexual orientation known, he said.


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