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Black clergy vow: No gay marriage in N.C.
Pastors, conservatives push for referendum
 
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011 2:04 pm
by Herbert L. White

Republican lawmakers are lining up black support for a constitutional referendum to ban same-sex marriage.

African American clergy gathered Tuesday for a press conference called by state House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) to back a referendum that would go to voters on the November 2012 ballot. North Carolina statute already bans gay unions, but referendum advocates are pushing for a constitutional prohibition they claim is more likely to withstand legal challenge.

“The voters of North Carolina should be allowed to vote on the marriage amendment,” said the Rev. Johnny Hunter of Cliffdale Community Church in Fayetteville. “A bad judge can nullify the North Carolina state statutes on marriage.”

The pastors, who were described as mix of political affiliations, said they support a ban on moral grounds and favor a referendum that would give voters a say in the process.

“Some of our elected officials are not willing to give the people the right to vote on the Marriage Amendment,” said Pastor Donald Fozard of Mt. Zion Christian Church in Durham. “I can assure you the church community will watch the way you vote, and we will make it known to our people where you stand.”

“Whether you’re Democratic or Republican, why wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to represent the people of your district,” Folwell said. “This amendment pushes power away from Raleigh and to the people of North Carolina.”

In the mid-1990s, the General Assembly, which was dominated by Democrats until 2010, voted to restrict the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples. Among the Democrats who supported the 1996 “No Same Sex Marriage” statute were current Gov. Bev Perdue, House Minority Leader Joe Hackney and Attorney General Roy Cooper.

A successful referendum vote would make North Carolina the 30th state – and last in the South – to approve a constitutional ban. Six states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage, while 39 states prohibit it.

“In the past, the Marriage Amendment has seen both primary and co-sponsors from the Republican and Democratic (parties), but today there are members that are making this vote about political affiliation,” said Kevin Daniels of the Frederick Douglas Foundation of North Carolina. “This vote is not about politics. It’s about democracy and fairness.”

African Americans, who make up a quarter of N.C. voters, would become a key demographic should a referendum make the ballot. In California, where Proposition 8 passed in 2008, 70 percent of African Americans who cast ballots backed the ban, sparking tensions between blacks and gay rights activists. Proposition 8 is in litigation.

Clergy at Tuesday’s press conference urged black lawmakers to vote for the referendum, rejecting the argument that gay rights share equal moral footing with civil rights.

“There is no evidence across the United States of backlash for African-American representatives who vote to protect the definition of marriage between an man and woman,” said the Rev. Patrick Wooden, pastor of Upper Room Church God and Christ in Raleigh.

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