Prominent black clergy, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, are encouraging American black voters to consider Maryland's November ballot referendum on same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, as opposed to a religious or political issue.
Dozens of black clergy leaders gathered for a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., on Friday, Sept. 21 to discuss the same-sex marriage referendum. The press conference was headed by the Rev. Delman Coates, the senior pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George's County, Md.
"In a real sense, this is about preserving our democracy. We cannot as a nation spend billions of dollars every week to export freedom abroad, and then enact laws that deny freedom of fellow Americans here at home. That is not right," Coates said about the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland, according to The Washington Post.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also spoke at the press conference, telling the pastors in attendance: "This is not an issue about gay or straight, this is a issue about civil rights and to take a position to limit the civil rights of any one is to take a position to limit the civil rights of everyone."
The press conference was also attended by the Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, which boasts 12,000 members, the Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, and the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church, Alexandria, Va., among others.
The pastors were visiting Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Prayer Breakfast, which was held as a part of the 42nd Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference from Wednesday, Sept. 19 to Sunday, Sept 23.
Not all those attending the conference agreed with the legalization of same-sex marriage, which has been a hot topic of political discussion since President Barack Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage in May.
In a roundtable discussion on the last day of the conference, the Rev. Annette Wilson outwardly opposed Obama's view on same-sex marriage.
"When God says a man should not lie with another man as a woman, that's what he meant," she told those at the roundtable discussion.
"When He says that two women should not lie together as a man would a woman, that's what He meant. He meant what He said, and we have to give an account for it. . . . When we know what God says and then go against it, there are consequences," Wilson added.
As previously reported by The Christian Post, the Coalition of African-American Pastors sought to meet with President Barack Obama in July 2012 to discuss the Commander-in-Chief's view on same-sex marriage.
"More than anything, this is an issue of biblical principles and President Obama is carrying our nation down a dangerous road. Many African-Americans were once proud of our president but now many are ashamed of his actions," spokesperson for the group, the Rev. Bill Owens, previously told The Christian Post.
Many who oppose same-sex marriage argue that it is not a civil rights issue but rather an issue of sexuality.
In a recent controversial statement made on ABC's "This Week", Ann Coulter, a conservative political and social pundit, said that "civil rights are for blacks" due to the U.S.'s "legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws."
"We don't owe the homeless. We don't owe feminists. We don't owe women who are desirous of having abortions, or gays who want to get married to one another," Coulter added.
On Nov. 6, Maryland residents will vote on a referendum which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, but would not force churches to perform such unions.
As The Washington Post points out, the outcome of the Nov. 6 ballot could make Maryland the first state to approve the redefinition of marriage by popular vote.