Obama backs gay marriage
Posted: 16 May 2012 @ 00:00
PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s announcement of his personal support for same-sex marriage has divided leaders and congregations in black churches in the United States.
Although subsequent opinion polls have suggested that the President’s announcement may harm his standing with voters, many church leaders who disagreed with his decision still said that they would continue to support him as President.
African-Americans provided President Obama with record support in 2008; yet polls have shown that, as a group, they are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage than whites.
Pastors of black churches have also played a prominent part in the movement to ban same-sex marriages at state level. In North Carolina, church leaders led the campaign that resulted in the adoption of “Amendment One” — banning gay marriage — last week, although it had been opposed by the Bishop of North Carolina, the Rt Revd Michael Curry.
Yet, where the President’s gay-marriage support was discussed at church services last Sunday, many pastors said that they were able to distinguish between opposition to same-sex marriage and their views about Mr Obama as President.
President Obama gave a television interview last week in which he said that he had had to square his support for gay marriage with his religious faith. Speaking about the decision he had taken with his wife, Michelle, he said: “We are both practising Christians, and obviously this decision may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others. But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
He said that his views had evolved as a result of speaking with friends, family, and staff over several years. He had been forced to speak out on the issue after his deputy, Joe Biden, had spoken up for gay marriage a few days previously.
The Revd Calvin Butts, a pastor in New York City, told CNN that he did not endorse the President’s decision, but he denounced those who “watch others be discriminated against, marginalised, and literally hated in the name of God”.
Others said that they disagreed with the President, but were committed to praying for him.
A number of black leaders, including the Revd Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, released an open letter supporting Mr Obama’s position. They said: “The President made clear that his support is for civil marriage for same-sex couples, and he is fully committed to protecting the ability of religious institutions to make their own decisions about their own sacraments.”
But leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Baptist Church in the US said that they were distressed by Mr Obama’s decision to support gay marriage.
The RC Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that it “undermine[s] the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better.”
The President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Revd Bryant Wright, predicted that voters would hold the President accountable for “a calculated, politically expedient decision that completely ignores the biblical foundation of marriage”.
A recent survey of Americans by the Pew Research Centre showed that 47 per cent of respondents favoured allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 43 per cent are opposed — an increase in support for marriage since 2008.
Republicans have urged their presumed presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, to cash in on Mr Obama’s decision by voicing his own opposition to gay marriage.
He did so during a visit to Liberty University, Virginia, where he told students that marriage could be only between one man and one woman. He proposed outlawing gay marriage for ever.