Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Black pastors and civil rights leaders yesterday held separate rallies on Capitol Hill, staking opposite positions on a constitutional amendment aimed at banning homosexual “marriage.”

“This is a moral issue that brings us to the table, and I’m a Democrat. We’re not the right-wing Republicans that are just trying to make you do what our political agenda says. We have a legitimate concern about the deterioration of our community,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, a pastor from Hope Christian Church in Bowie, who opposes homosexual “marriage.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure today. The bill is not expected to pass, but opponents of homosexual “marriage” say they will mobilize election votes for or against lawmakers depending on how they vote.

Mr. Jackson’s national group, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, organized a morning rally in favor of the amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, the bill’s sponsor, spoke to the crowd of about 100 in the park next to the Russell Senate Office Building.

Mr. Jackson and other leaders then descended on the offices of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat; Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat; and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to argue their case.

Later in the day, the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s top homosexual rights lobbying group, rallied in the same park in opposition to the amendment.

“We must decide if liberty is just for all straight white men, or if in fact God has endowed all persons with the right to enjoy committed, loving relationships,” said the Rev. Nathan A. Harris, of Lincoln Congregational Temple, in the District. “As a heterosexual man, as a Christian pastor … I stand in solidarity with the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, spoke to the crowd of about 50.

The Rev. William Owens, chairman of the Memphis, Tenn.-based Coalition of African-American Pastors, said the homosexual rights movement is trying to “hijack civil rights.” He said he marched for black civil rights in the 1960s.

“I did not march one step for people of the same sex to marry,” Mr. Owens said.

Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, called Mr. Owen’s remarks a “somewhat hysterical interpretation of the facts.”

“Our fears about cultural changes in this country have been hijacked and portrayed as a legitimate issue of concern,” Mr. Henderson said.

Conservative black pastors and civil rights leaders say homosexual “marriage” will further diminish the number of black children without a mom and a dad, in a community that has already felt the negative consequences of single-parent families.

“If we don’t do something, we may face an America in 10 years where only one out of every 10 children is born to an intact family. We may face an America where the problems that are in the black community are in every community in the land. We don’t want an America like that,” Mr. Jackson said.

Liberal black pastors such as Mr. Harris, however, said that “heterosexual marriage has done a good job on its own of falling apart.”

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