Brushing aside criticism that it is savaging religious liberty and some of the most reliable social services in the District of Columbia, the D.C. City Council today is set to approve a bill to end the protected status of traditional marriage. The collision between the redefinition of marriage and religious liberty is being closely followed – and now more attention is being devoted to the collision between that redefinition and the traditional understanding of civil rights.
A new column over the weekend by Johns Hopkins graduate student Taylor Harris makes the point in a compelling way. Harris, who is African American, takes NAACP leader Julian Bond to task for equating opposition to same-sex marriage with racial prejudice. Harris faults Bond for trying “to peg African Americans’ morals and opinions to our socio-historical identities.” Harris underscores that two-thirds of African-American Protestants support traditional marriage, and that, at 12.8 percent of the population, they are not the difference makers in all of the 31 states that have voted to date to uphold the traditional understanding.
African-Americans are prominent among the 167 religious leaders who have signed the Manhattan Declaration, released on November 20, which commits its signatories to defend traditional marriage, the sanctity of human life, conscience rights, and religious liberty. They include Bishops Harry Jackson and George Dallas McKinney, and Pastors Herb Lusk of Philadelphia and Ken Hutcherson of Kirkland, Washington. The vast majority of the signers, however, are not African American. What they have in common is best understood by the Declaration’s assertion that it seeks to “reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them.”
For this reason and others, like the leadership of civil rights leader Walter Fauntroy in behalf of traditional marriage, attempts to parallel redefinition of marriage with the civil rights marches of the 1960s are doomed from the outset.