Herbert Dyer, Jr.

A national coalition of black preachers has taken their opposition to President Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage a huge step further. It was just a couple of months ago that Obama announced his new, revised and strictly “personal” view that same-sex marriage was okay by him. A mini-firestorm erupted among both black preachers and many congregants in opposition to the president’s announcement. Debate, discussion, and not a small amount of gnashing of teeth occurred in black churches, barber and beauty shops, and especially on talk radio shows (black, white, “liberal,” and “conservative”) across the country. And, though this issue has been on simmer during the height of a national heat wave, it has, once again, taken center stage with this new effort by black ministers.

Rev. William Owens is president and founder of something called the Coalition of African-American Pastors and is leading the opposition to gay marriage among African-Americans. He says that his group has been prompted to organize “an effort to save the family” by circulating a “pledge” to oppose both President Obama and gay marriage.

“The time has come for a broad-based assault against the powers that be that want to change our culture to one of men marrying men and women marrying women,” said Owens at the National Press Club on July 30. “I am ashamed that the first black president chose this road, a disgraceful road.”

Owens claims that he has 3,742 black ministers on board his “dump Obama” bandwagon. A fundraiser is scheduled to be held in Memphis on Aug.16, and Owens vowed “to go nationwide with our agenda just like the president has gone to Hollywood.”

Owens further charged that Obama was taking the black vote for granted and attempted to debunk the notion of convergence between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, an assertion made by the NAACP in support of Obama’s gay marriage switcheroo.

Owens did find an equivalency between child molestation and homosexuality: “If you watch the men who have been caught having sex with little boys, you will note that all of them will say that they were molested as a child…” Owens said. “For the president to condone this type of thing is irresponsible.” Later, Rev. Owens recanted this statement – but only to say that he did not mean that the president condoned child molestation. The link between being gay and child molestation, however, stands, according to the good reverend.

Owens averred that the president’s position on gay marriage was merely the latest in a long line of disconnects between the president and his core constituency, black America. He questioned Obama’s commitment to black Americans, including the black press. And, without realizing it I presume, echoed Professor Cornel West’s argument earlier this year that the president was not a “free black man.” The president is just “half-black, half-white,” he said; and therefore is incapable of relating to “real” black Americans. He is “ignoring the people that put him in the White House.”

There may be some merit in Owens’ criticism of the president as it relates to his “ignoring” of black people. But the question is why we only hear from Rev. Owens and his followers on this particular issue and not on the questions of black empowerment, black unemployment, black crime, black mass imprisonment?

Nevertheless, it is highly possible that people like Owens can affect the outcome of November’s elections. President Obama need only lose a small portion of the black vote to lose the whole enchilada. We’ll see.

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