- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

Congressional black Democrats said comparisons shouldn’t be made between the struggle by homosexuals to legalize same-sex “marriage” and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they are on shaky ground with their constituents after the presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry compared the two issues during a town hall meeting in Jackson, Miss., last week.

Mr. Kerry was asked during the forum if it was fair for homosexual-rights activists to use prominent figures of the civil rights movement in their effort to legalize same-sex “marriages.” The Massachusetts senator said he saw a correlation between the issues, which didn’t fare too well in the heavily black deep South.

Caucus members said the comparison is wrong.

“The first time I heard the comparison was Sunday,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, who attended the town hall meeting. “And my approach to [homosexual rights] is, it is a separate issue.”

Caucus chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said the issue is sure to resurface as Mr. Kerry campaigns throughout black communities, since blacks are not as socially liberal when it comes to same-sex “marriage.”

“With African-Americans, you do have a conservative religious community toward [homosexual ‘marriage’],” the Maryland Democrat said.

There have been several incidents of homosexual-rights activists and city mayors invoking the names of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and equating the 1960s movement to the current struggle by homosexuals to win “marriage” rights.

But black politicians on Capitol Hill said they do not think that is right.

“The civil rights movement was more of a movement for the equal rights of all Americans: education, voting rights, jobs. Whereas gay rights in terms of gay marriage is a movement for a special group of Americans,” said Rep. Artur Davis, Alabama Democrat. “So I would not compare civil rights with gay rights.”

Mr. Thompson said same-sex “marriage” could in some small way affect whom blacks decide to support in November, “if they feel that strongly about it.” But, he said, ultimately he did not think it was enough of a hot-button issue to trump “more pressing” issues for black America in the election, such as the economy, jobs, health care and education.

Mr. Kerry said Republicans are using the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage” as a “wedge issue” to divide America. Mr. Thompson agreed.

But Republican lawmakers have said Mr. Bush was forced to act after the newly elected mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, began issuing “marriage” licenses to homosexual couples in violation of California state law, and when Jason West, the mayor of New Paltz, N.Y., and a Green Party member, also began “marrying” same-sex couples.

More than 4,100 same-sex “weddings” have been performed in San Francisco in the past two months and hundreds more in New Paltz.

And if it is made a wedge issue, there does not appear to be a lot of wiggle room between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, some black Democrats are considering the amendment.

“I have not made a decision on the constitutional amendment. Although I don’t see a need for one, when I see mayors announcing that they will violate the law, it raises the point and puts the country and the Congress in a difficult position,” Mr. Davis said.

A handful of black pastors in Boston have voiced their disapproval of the same-sex rights and civil rights link this week. And the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, called on black ministers across the country to oppose same-sex “marriage” and to support the proposed federal marriage amendment.

Both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush say they are against homosexual “marriage.” Mr. Kerry said he support civil unions, a sort-of marriage by contracts and wills rather than one with ministers, a license and full state approval. Mr. Bush has been somewhat cagey on the civil unions issue, but has thrown his support behind a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman.

But polls show that the majority of Americans are against legalizing “marriage” between homosexuals.

A CBS poll conducted Feb. 24 through 27 showed that 62 percent of Americans oppose homosexual “marriage” with 30 percent saying they are in favor and 8 percent undecided. The same poll showed that 59 percent of Americans favored the constitutional amendment with 35 percent opposing it and 6 percent undecided. The poll had a 3 percent margin of error.

A recent national Gallup poll showed that 40 percent of blacks were accepting of homosexuality.

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