- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Black pastors in Maryland said that even though a push to ban homosexual “marriage” failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday, the debate this week may help Republican candidate Michael S. Steele in this fall’s election.

“You’ll find that the black church is very strong on this issue,” said Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Bowie.

“I’m hearing people say, ‘I didn’t know [Mr. Steele] had such conservative moral values,’” said Bishop Jackson, whose church averages 2,000 attendees a week.

The Rev. Gwenith Holcomb, of the Spirit of Elijah Kingdom Church in Fort Washington, said the spotlight on the issue “will cause it to be a concern for us.”

“I believe the institution of marriage is the foundation of our society. It’s an issue of what we believe is best for society,” she said.

Mrs. Holcomb, who pastors about 250 members with her husband, attended a Tuesday rally of black pastors on Capitol Hill in support of the constitutional amendment, which had aimed to define marriage as between one man and one woman. The amendment failed 49-48 to reach an up-or-down vote. Sixty votes were needed.

As far as the Senate seat to be determined in November, Mrs. Holcomb said she has not decided whether to vote for Mr. Steele, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, or for Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat and former congressman, both of whom are black.

Mr. Steele is strongly opposed to homosexual “marriage,” while Mr. Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has said he supports the issue.

Mr. Mfume trails Democratic front-runner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin both in polling and fundraising with three months until September’s primary. Mr. Cardin has said he supports civil unions for homosexual couples but believes marriage is between a man and a woman, according to the Washington Blade.

Mr. Cardin received highly favorable ratings in 2002 and 2004 from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights lobbying group, despite voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

One Baltimore pastor, a Cardin supporter, said he could not vote for a candidate who favors homosexual “marriage.”

“I don’t think [Mr. Cardin] will come out and support that, knowing Ben and his background,” said the Rev. John L. Wright, of the 2,000-member First Baptist Church of Guilford and former chairman of the Maryland NAACP.

As for how his church members will vote, Mr. Wright said, “I really don’t know what people will do. Sometimes you don’t know where the flow will go.”

Pastor James J. Thompson Jr., of the 1,000-member Integrity Church International in Landover, is a Steele supporter. He said homosexual “marriage” will be an election issue if pastors make it an issue.

“It’s going to depend on what we as pastors do,” Mr. Thompson said. “I’m not sure that our church knows the issues. We will let them know.”

National Democratic consultant Donna Brazile said, “There’s no question that the issue of same-sex marriage will become an issue in the Maryland Senate race.”

Miss Brazile said homosexual “marriage” opponents are “divisive and hateful,” and said most voters “are smart enough to understand that this is an election move by partisans who oppose their interest on so many fronts.”

Traditional marriage advocate Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, a Christian lobbying group, said the issue “cuts across old political and racial divisions” to unite blacks and whites.

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