Minority Pastors: Gay Marriage Not a 'Civil Right'

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WASHINGTON -- A key factor in the 2012 race for the White House is expected to be which candidate can best motivate his political base.

President Obama energized part of his base when in a recent ABC News interview he spoke the words gay, lesbian and transgender activists have been pushing for.

"I think same sex couples should be able to get married," the president told ABC News' Robin Roberts in a May 9 interview.

Nearly a month later, the quote is displayed prominently on his campaign website, along with a YouTube video narrated by well-known "Glee" actress Jane Lynch, who is a lesbian.

"In 2008, our country elected a leader who not only acknowledged the LGBT community, but who embraced it," Lynch says in the video.

The NAACP also quickly got on board, passing a resolution endorsing gay marriage as a civil right.

But a number of minority pastors gathered May 24 at the Defense of Marriage Summit in Washington, D.C., to confront the president over his decision to support same-sex marriage.

The leaders said the president needs to understand that their Christian faith comes before their support of his historic presidency.

"I think this issue is going to be very important to a lot of voters," Bishop Eugene Reeves said.

"One of the things that I think both the Republicans and the Democrats have really not judged correctly is that the black vote cannot be bought simply because of the color of a person's skin," he said.

"And just because people have been loyal to the Democratic Party in the past does not mean that you're going to get their vote," he added.

Pastors who are uniting to stand up for traditional marriage, even some who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., say the struggle black Americans endured to gain civil rights - attack dogs, lynchings, and fire hoses - don't begin to compare to the fight for gay marriage.

"I don't think it is relevant to a civil rights fight at all," Bishop Larry Palmer said. "It's a fight between right and wrong. This just so happens to be wrong."

A recent pew poll finds just 39 percent of blacks favor gay marriage, a number that's barely increased over the past decade.

The question is how much will the president's support of gay marriage turn off black voters. Will many of them change their votes or possibly stay home and not vote at all?

"Same-sex marriage to me is an abomination scripturally and actually," said Baltimore Delegate Emmett Burns (D), who is also a pastor at Rising Sun Baptist Church.

Despite his difference with the president on marriage, Burns said he'll still support the president in November.

"The number of people who believe same-sex marriage is the biggest issue and that have really strong views on it… that's a small group," Georgetown University's Mark Rom told CBN News.

"If you have strong opinions about same-sex marriage you probably already are going to vote for the Republican candidates or you're already going to vote for the Democratic candidates and Obama's statement matters little," he said.

But pastors organizing believe they can make a difference and that it's their moral duty to fight for traditional marriage.

"He says he is evolving, flip-flopping -- I don't know what you want to call it -- but the bottom line is that God doesn't change," Bishop Angel Nunez with the Maryland Marriage Alliance said.

"He's the same yesterday, today and forever and he doesn't evolve," he stated. And so marriage is still between one man and one woman and so what can I tell you? We're coming and we're coming strong."

*Original broadcast June 5, 2012.

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Jennifer Wishon

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Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.