BOSTON (BP)–Three major organizations of black pastors in Boston issued a joint statement Feb. 7 opposing same-sex “marriage” and supporting a constitutional amendment, providing a blow to those in Massachusetts who have tried to equate civil rights with “gay rights.”
The statement was signed by the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, the Boston Ten Point Coalition and the Cambridge Black Pastors Conference.
But it wasn’t the only pro-amendment statement. A coalition of leaders representing more than 3,000 churches, mosques and synagogues also issued a joint statement Feb. 7 calling for the passage of a state constitutional marriage amendment.
The two statements were released on the eve of a Feb. 11 constitutional convention in which state legislators will consider a state amendment that would protect the traditional definition of marriage.
“We believe our voices are critical to the debate because of who we are and whom we represent,” the statement signed by the three black organizations reads. “We are Christians with a faith that was forged from a uniquely American experience. As Black religious leaders we speak from our theological, historical and ethical understanding of the institution of marriage.
“We believe marriage to be a unique covenant established between a man and a woman. Our understanding of marriage is fundamentally rooted in our beliefs. It is a tenet seminal to Christianity, other faith traditions and also secular society. The marriage covenant is both a religious and social contract. It is the primary basis for the establishment of the rules of social engagement and community.”
The statement acknowledged “the pain and suffering” of homosexuals “who are in long term relationships” but said that in light of the most recent opinion by the state’s high court, the three organizations were supporting a constitutional amendment.
The other statement was signed by leaders representing Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical Christian, Islamic and Jewish bodies.
The statement criticized the Massachusetts media for focusing on religious groups who support same-sex “marriage.” The same week that the coalition released its statement, a coalition of some 400 religious leaders came out opposing attempts to amend the state constitution.
“The ongoing reference in the media to leaders or congregations supporting same-sex marriage has created a myth of religious support,” the statement reads. “Our signatures speak otherwise.”
Among the signers were Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary dean Alvin Padilla, Boston College President William Leahy, Vision New England President David M. Midwood and Park Street Church pastor Gordon Hugenberger.
It also included signatures from M. Saleem Bajwa and Seraj-ul Haque of the Islamic Council of New England and Rabbi Gershon C. Gewirtz of Young Israel of Brookline.
The statement asserted that the traditional definition of marriage is not “primarily a religious doctrine.”
“It is based on common sense and human reason,” it notes. “… The court’s re-definition of marriage explicitly divorces the institution of marriage from the procreation and education of children. Despite the experience of all human cultures and the empirical data of sociological studies, the court ignores the fact that the stable, permanent relationship of a husband and wife is the optimal basis for child rearing. The court’s decision will harm our children, who are entitled to be able to count on their parents’ marriages as the secure foundation of their family lives.”
The vote Feb. 11 figures to be a close one, even as legislators debate the amendment’s final language. The Associated Press conducted a telephone survey and found that 70 legislators supported an amendment, 62 opposed it, 12 were undecided, three had no comments and 52 did not respond. The constitutional convention will include all 199 members of the House and Senate meeting together as one body.
The amendment must pass two consecutive legislative sessions — which in Massachusetts are two years each — before going to voters, which would be 2006 at the earliest.
The court’s ruling takes effect in mid-May, meaning that same-sex couples may be receiving marriage licenses long before voters have a say.
But public opinion may be tilting against same-sex “marriage” legalization. A Merrimack College Bay State poll found that only 33 percent of the state’s residents support same-sex “marriage” legalization — down from 37 percent in November. Forty-three percent favor Vermont-type civil unions and 18 percent oppose both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The poll of 501 people was conducted in late January and early February.
The poll was released after the Massachusetts high court ruled that civil unions were not an option.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people attended a rally Feb. 8 in Boston supporting a state constitutional amendment. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Concerned Women for America President Sandy Rios and Archbishop O’Malley spoke to the crowd.
The action by the legislature could have national implications. Even though it’s John Kerry’s home state and even though he has said he opposes same-sex “marriage,” the Democratic presidential has yet to take a position on the amendment.
The Boston Globe’s website ran a story Feb. 10 noting that “for the fifth day” in a row Kerry declined to state his position on the issue. The headline to the story read: “Kerry treads cautiously on gay marriage ban.” Massachusetts Republican Party chairman Darrell Crate criticized Kerry for being “evasive.”
“This is not a question of language — it is a question of principle — and the senator owes the people of Massachusetts a straight answer on this issue,” Crate said in a statement, according to The Globe.
The convention is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern and could stretch beyond a day, according to the newspaper. The amendment is the eighth of 10 items on the agenda.
Washington legislators are considering a federal marriage amendment that would protect the traditional definition of marriage nationwide, although it has not been brought to the floor in either chamber. It has 109 supporters in the House and seven in the Senate. Sen. Zell Miller, D.-Ga., signed on as a co-sponsor Feb. 9.
Kerry opposes the federal marriage amendment, while President Bush reportedly has told Republican lawmakers that he eventually will support it.
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