the irony of african-american support for banning same-sex marriage

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (Photo: Travis Long for

OK, I’ll say it:

The sheer irony of many African-Americans, especially Christians, celebrating what they believe to be the biblically ordained suppression and discrimination of another group’s civil rights betrays the short memory of those who were once themselves oppressed for being nothing more than who they are.

This irony is not new; it has been discussed in the past regarding California’s Prop 8 here and here. Is the same true in North Carolina?

I am not an African-American, so one could argue that I’m not permitted to discuss this topic. But I must say that as one who is neither gay nor black, but who has written extensively about this topic for years now, to me this political demographic anomaly ranks among the grand ironies of our era.

I do believe one can make a case that the African-American community has once again been ignored as a voting block. It is not enough to argue simply that black churches are socially more conservative than their white counterparts. The fact is that much of the time and money spent on educating the public – especially Christians – about the problems of attempting to ban same-sex marriage upon biblical or ‘traditional’ grounds in a secular state has been spent on persuading the much larger white voting block, while comparatively little time and money has been spent on educating and entering into dialogue with the African-American community. Thus, the African-American community has once again been overlooked in favor of focusing attention, time, and money upon white groups for political advocacy efforts.

Whatever the underlying reason, the irony still remains: many African-Americans like Pastor Patrick Wooden (pictured) are actually celebrating the suppression of civil liberties (note: not religious liberties, but civil, secular, state liberties) of an otherwise oppressed group, who only want the same civil rights as those in the majority.

To me, the use of religion to suppress the civil liberties of a minority group of any race, religion, gender, color, or sexual orientation is shameful. For one underrepresented group to suppress another only increases the burden.

Repost and respond away!

32 Responses

  1. You have made the comparison between slavery and gay marriage over and over again, and I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who finds it to be an unacceptable metaphor. Owning another person is abominable, but even you draw the line of marriageable persons somewhere, just at a different place than some other people. You–I assume–find incestual marriage, polygamy, underage marriage, etc. to be abominable, but people don’t cast these opinions as “bigotry” or “suppression of civil rights.” Just because some people include gay marriage in this list doesn’t make them bigots or irrational, it just means they respectfully disagree about where to draw the line. It seems like you could disagree more respectfully.
    In North Carolina, gay people share all the same civic rights as straight people–both categories can enter into marriage with appropriately aged members of the opposite sex outside of their immediate family. That is not an infringement of civic rights. The same rules apply to everyone. In the case of slavery, some people were free and others were enslaved–two sets of rules for two groups of people. That is suppression of civil rights, this is not.

  2. Gotta say, I preferred your blog when you avoided politics and stuck to roasting huckster “archaeologists” who were jumping to ridiculous conclusions in order to peddle books and “documentaries”.

  3. James, the problem is, of course, that there are problems that result from incest (genetically), polygamy (the suppression of women’s rights and roles), and underage marriage (consent).
    Please point to the ‘problem’ (other than ‘God says don’t’) with same-sex consenting adults electing to be married? Where is the victim? No victim, no crime.

    BTW, you have misrepresented the analogy: the analogy is not slavery v. marriage, it is the USE OF THE BIBLE TO SUPPORT positions against same-sex marriage when THAT SAME BIBLE also supports OTHER social practices that have since been politically (and in the case of the Civil War, militarily) been abolished. The analogy is the biblical justification for the legislation of social practices. If we can overturn the practice of slavery despite the bible endorsing, regulating, and working within the framework of slavery, then we can overturn prohibitions against same-sex marriage.

    Thanx for your comments,


  4. You must stand and be counted. How others count you is their problem. And the only thing greater than standing on your own is standing with and for those who have difficulty standing on their own, especially when they’re being held down by others.

    I honor those who serve in the military for standing up for me. I try to do the same on an intellectual level in the civil realm for others.

    My job is to assess the evidence and point out the flaws in arguments being made to the public that involve religion. Whether that’s sensational archaeological claims or hypocritical legal positions, I still must stand.

    Thank you for your comments.


  5. I think you would have a hard time asserting that there is a victim in a loving, consensual incestual marriage (and most recent studies suggest that the genetic risk is negligible as well). Some states prohibit marriage between a parent and his/her adopted child, but I don’t hear you arguing to legalize that kind of marriage, or calling those laws suppression of civil liberties.
    The risk of the suppression of women is present in monogamous heterosexual marriages just as it is in polygamous ones. And consent can hardly render one party as a victim the day (or the week or month or year) before someone turns the marriageable age, yet it’s still illegal.
    All of this to say that these forms of marriage don’t necessarily have victims either, but I suppose you are still opposed to them. I’m not sure the presence of a victim is necessary for a crime in these situations.

    I think your argument about the use of the Bible for the legislation of social practices is fallacious. I haven’t heard anyone argue that we *can’t* overturn prohibitions of same-sex marriage because the Bible forbids it, only that we *shouldn’t*. Your analogy says that because the Bible was “wrong” (more or less) about slavery, that it can no longer be trusted for any kind of moral/social guidance. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and I’m not sure that the “No victim no crime” line is an adequate divider.
    I agree with you that legislating morality is a terrifying proposal, but I don’t think this instance amounts to suppression of civil liberties.

  6. James,

    I’ve responded to this red-herring elsewhere: if you want to start a campaign that allows people to enter into incestuous marriages or relationships with adopted children, then you are more than welcome to do so.

    This issue is the civil issue of same-sex marriage. you can slippery-slope and red herring all you want: I’m not the one making the claim and attempting to suppress the civil rights of others. If someone invokes the Bible to argue against same-sex marriage, I’ll point out the flaws in the argument.

    I don’t care what people of faith do within their religious circles. But as far as the state is concerned, when people attempt to invoke their religious convictions into that debate, I’ll show them why it’s flawed.


  7. Not allowing Homosexuals the ability to marry is NOT depriving them of any civil rights. We do not legitimize their sin.

  8. again, david, the fact that ‘sin’ has any bearing whatsoever on civil rights is the issue. what you consider ‘sin’ others may not.
    we all agree that murder is both sin AND should be legislated against.
    we do NOT agree that homosexuality is sin and should be legislated against.
    the fact that you are using your definition of ‘sin’ to decide upon civil laws is the problem.

  9. I posted on this today and joined the white noise of commentary. I read a paper and the opening paragraph is compelling:

    In North Carolina in 1869, Wesley Hairston, a black man, and Puss Williams, a white woman, went on trial in Forsythe County for “fornication and adultery.” They claimed they were married, but the judge instructed the jury that no such marriage could be valid in North Carolina. When the jury convicted both defendants, they appealed the judge’s instruction and the jury’s verdict. The North Carolina Supreme Court dashed their hopes when it declared: “The only question in this case is, whether the intermarriage of whites and blacks is lawful.” A unanimous appeals court rejected the “pretended marriage” and upheld the convictions. – (Wallenstein, Akron Law Review, 1999, V. 32:3)

    As Bob has noted, why such inconsistency with the current issue? If we prohibit inter-racial marriages based on the Tower of Babel text (read some KKK literature which draws from this justification), are we not prohibiting same sex marriage on the same grounds? Or the converse: If we remove the prohibition on inter-racial marriage in North Carolina (which was only in 1971 I believe) because it is an indefensible limit to the rights of one group, where is the *rational argument* that we ought to keep the prohibition on same sex marriage. According to the 1st Amendment norm we cannot allow specific religious justifications as evidence for the argument. It must be done within the boundary of civil liberties. Otherwise our legal system would look not much different than a religious tribunal today.

  10. One of the pivot points in any discussion of homosexuality is whether or not it is a choice. For those who reject the idea that a person is born homosexual, then it is simply a lifestyle choice and should have no access to civil rights as such. The people who believe that homosexuality is a “sin” or wrongful behavior as defined by their religion, then it has to be a choice, otherwise their God is creating people who have no option in the matter of sinning. Because of this, then, the only valid arguments in this matter are the ones arising from the Constitution. Religions have no standing regarding making laws for the whole people. The Government is specifically prohibited from basing laws on any religion whatsoever. No civil entity has the right to block homosexuals from making use of the civil construct usually referred to as “marriage”.

  11. Marie, Very well said!!

  12. The anti-gay marriage brigade of today is the anti-mixed marriage apologist of yesterday — and the Bible arguably makes a stronger case against mixed marriages. Twenty or thirty years from now, people will be embarrassed to read the bigoted things their parents wrote about homosexuality, which will remain preserved on the Internet for posterity.

  13. James, I have a question for you, and I honestly want to know: Why do you object to allowing same-sex couples to marry?

    Are you principally opposed to it on religious grounds? There are religious groups in the United States that are openly in favor of marriage equality. It’s an article of faith for them. Are you actually opposed to religious freedom?

    Here’s a thought experiment I read on an atheist blog a couple of weeks ago — try this on for size:

    “You get to decide how much deference our legal system will pay to religious doctrine. After you do that, I will decide which religion gets that deferential treatment. Then, if you want, we can switch roles and play the game again. I’ll bet you that in both cases, we end up with a pretty secular system.”

  14. Dr. Tee,

    “We do not legitimize their sin.”

    We most certainly do! There are, at last count, 613 laws and commandments in the Old Testament alone. How many of them are against the law? How many of them can you name? How many do you suppose you routinely flout?

    Even among the Ten Commandments, all but two are legal in our society.

  15. it is extremely offensive to me, as an african-american, that this comparison is made so often. it is a manipulative tactic that has nothing to do with the facts of the matter, it is just meant to be an arguing point, and it is a cheap shot at that. somewhere in our collective understanding, we were supposed to accept that being gay is ‘being who you are.’ it is a chosen behavior, as all sin is. it is not the same as being born of a particular race. or are you implying that i am sinful because i was born black?

  16. Then we must come to an agreement as to what role civil law plays and how it affects society. Then we need to agree as to where to draw the line. To use civil law to legitimize abnormal behavior we need to decide where on the slippery slope do we stop and why?

    We then need to draw up an explanation for why some alternative behavior is acceptable and others are not, to satisfy the complaints of those who are affected by the new border. Why homosexuality and not beastiality? Is the latter rejected out of personal bias and the former is not? How is scale being rated?

    Why should homosexuality be treated in a special manner?To take your blog as an example, one rason the descendants offormer slaves (slaves) are up in arms about this has nothing to do with civil rights but with the extra meaning attached to homosexuality that slavery does not have.

    This is why your comparison fails as slavery is not declared as an abomination by God, nor are people ‘given over to it’ as condemnation for its practice. It is like trying to compare burning witches with child molestation and it doesn’t work.

    Slavery is on a different level than homosexuality and i do not think you are being honest or even fair in the attempt to draw a comparison. It seems you want to shame or embarass people to support same sex marriage instead of having a good discussion on the pros and cons.

    I have refrained from introducing Sodom and Gomorrah into the discussion as that is a biblical example you probably do not accept but the lesson is there to learn. Homosexuality’s practice brings nothing good to society and noting good comes from its practice. {Have you ever spent time in a real gay bar? I had a homosexual friend and I went with him once to see his side of the world– it is not pretty and it is very repulsive. If you saw it for yourself, I do not think you would support same sex marriage}

    For slavery, some ting good can come from it. One thing is that millions of people have the opportunity to be born and grow up in America and have a chance for a good life instead of Africa which has yet to recover from the colonial days and the corruption that followed that practice’s demise.

    The comparison just does not fit. Of course people will use the Bible tojusify their sin. People also say ‘Oh, God will understand…’ when they decide to do something they shouldn’t. Doesn’t make either practice right or Biblical. people will find ways to support their non-biblical deeds.

    The trick is to see past it to what theBible is really teaching and follow that.

  17. kaye, you are assuming that the evidence supports your claim that people CHOOSE to be gay. if it is a choice, then why do so many very depressed gay individuals struggling with their identity just DECIDE one morning not to be gay? if you don’t want to be attracted to the same sex, but you are, then perhaps there is some rationale behind the studies now being done stating that homosexuality may not be a conscious choice, but a genetic or chemical predisposition.

    i lean toward the argument that christians don’t WANT it to be something one is born with, because they would then have to explain why god would make people a certain way and then condemn them for it. i know enough people who don’t want to be gay – who consciously say ‘i don’t want to feel this way’ – but who cannot do otherwise. it’s like asking a depressed person to ‘stop choosing to be sad and just be happy like me.’ for some, they WANT to be happy, but the chemicals in their body don’t allow them to do so.

    indeed, some people choose to embrace individuals of the same sex. some are proud of who they are. but others struggle, and in watching young people struggle with this dilemma – who WANT to be straight, but whose bodies tell them otherwise – i think it inappropriate to insist that their struggle is some sort of personal choice, or worse yet, the effect of some sin or moral flaw in their lives.

    white people told black people for a long, long time that their being black was the ‘will of god’ and that ‘god made it this way’ with slaves obeying masters. it was absolutely wrong. african-americans were simply being who they were, and didn’t want to be discriminated against because of their color. the irony for me is that there are some individuals of color now who would do the same to gay individuals, and then take to the blogs to defend their discrimination of others, even implying racist motives for simply pointing out the hypocritical anomaly…

  18. What is the Rev. Dr. Bishop Eddie Long saying about all of this ?

    . . . or is he busy with private “spiritual counseling” sessions ?

    anybody know ?

  19. Personally I would say that if two people wish to commit to each other for life, forsaking all others etc, this is something society should celebrate and support, regardless of whether the two people are of the same or different sexes?

    If people wish to vote to keep civil law consistent with religious law, then that’s their democratic right, but I think they should at least be consistent and advocate an outright ban on homosexuality – surely the Bible is condemning the act itself, rather than the precise legal status of the couple engaged in it? And to be super-dooperly consistent they should also advocate a legal ban on fornication between heterosexual couples too?

    I spent fair amount of time living and working in countries where civil law is closely based on religious teachings – Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. I can’t say it was much fun.

  20. Well I am done discussing this issue after this post. I do not feelthat Dr. Cargill is open minded to other people’s points of view. There is no way to prove that someone is born gay but we have plenty of evidence that they not. The struggle for sexual preference is not a struggle against a gene, that would make people not responsible for their decisions–something the gays want so they do not have to take the punishment for their sin.

    People struggle with sexual preferenc ebecause evil does exist and wants to destroy God’s creation and one way they do that is to get peopl to accept the idea that they are homosexual.

    many homosexuals can’t leave their preference because God has given them over to it and they are now stuck. I noticed my previous comment didn’t make it to the board and I put that down to the fact that Dr. Cargill doesn’t want the reality of the homosexual life, he wants the idealized version where all gays are these fantastic people.

    They aren’t and they do not deserve the opportunity to marry each other. Nothing good comes from homosexuality, nothing about homosexuality benefits society as a whole. The only thing it does is destroy a nation, a city, a civilization.

    Those that support the HC in their quest should open their eyes and see the real story first. They will not like what they see.

  21. David,

    I can’t say that I appreciate being chastised for not being open-minded. Actually, I find it laughable. I’m sorry you equate closed-mindedness with not approving your multiple responses while I’m giving finals.

    lol. bc

  22. Dr. Tee is completely correct. His experience in a gay bar put homosexual relationships on the same par as going to a swinger’s heterosexual bar and judging heterosexual relationships from that. Poor choice, unfortunately.
    His other arguments are all based on the ancient texts of the Hebrew people commonly called “the Bible”. Since religion and religious beliefs have no standing in secular law, the arguments become meaningless. If he feels that life must be lived a certain way in order to please some certain god, fine. He is free to do so. He is not free to expect me to also try to please his god.
    As for his concern about other behaviors such as bestiality, the difference between homosexuality and bestiality is that only humans are involved in homosexuality, they have the freedom to choose who to love and how. Many animals also practice homosexuality, but it is seldom shown to the general public.
    As for the contribution to humanity that homosexuals make, it is a tremendous contribution. They don’t reproduce. (or at least seldom reproduce). This is a tremendous boon to a species that is overwhelming their planet’s ability to support them. It is also one possible reason that nature has made more of them in this era of overpopulation. We owe them out thanks, not our scorn.

  23. Actually, to vote to make certain religious practices and beliefs civil law is not their democratic right under the Republic we live in. This is not a pure democracy, the whim of the people is limited by the Constitution and only when that is changed to allow such things can that happen. That’s why it is extremely hard to change the Constitution.

  24. I’m actually going to agree with Dr. Tee, just a little bit, and also argue his point better than he did.

    It’s often said (and it’s been said right here in the comments), that we should afford equal civil rights to homosexuals because the are born that way and they can’t help it. I think that argument is weak (even though I agree they are born that way). After all, if someone were born with a compulsion to kill, society wouldn’t make an allowance for murder in his case “because he can’t help it”. Simply having a certain innate tendency is not a sufficient reason to allow or condone a given behavior.

    My position is, so what if homosexuality were a matter of choice? Would that actually make a difference? Innate tendency or free choice, I still don’t see why two people who wish to marry each other shouldn’t be allowed to, solely on the basis that they are of the same sex. Whom are they hurting?

  25. I have read many opinions from religious black leaders outraged by the comparison of homosexuality to slavery. One point they make is that slavery was inhumane whereas disenfranchising gay people is not inhumane. Not true! The toll this bigotry takes on teens and pre-teens is very high. In my small rural community we have a very high suicide rate especially for boys ages 11 – 15. For every suicide there are surely many who tried and did not succeed. This pervasive sadness and lack of hope can be directly attributable to the bigotry that has been codified into Abrahamic religious texts. I would compare it to the pervasive sadness and lack of hope experienced by people that were born into slavery. Gay people are beaten, murdered, mutilated, and disrespected much like black people were in the South. In some countries gay people are openly tortured and murdered as a holy act. If churches want to spout bigotry as Dr. Tee has just done (although he thinks what he is doing is a holy act) then they need to have their tax exempt status taken away.

  26. Dr. Cargill- Thank you for standing up for the rights of a minority of our population

  27. :) Thank you!

  28. Good timing, the NAACP has endorsed gay marriage: :


  29. ‘Bout time. This is actually very important.

  30. paul d,
    didn’t moses have a mixed marriage? didn’t paul teach jew and gentile and all nations to be the same before God? if you are so proud of yourself that you want what you say preserved for posterity, why are you so anonymous? sexual sin and race are not remotely the same thing, it is a desperate reach that makes people make that corrollation, not rational logic. i notice the argument ‘for’ gay marriage flails around a lot for support; no point is strong enough, so those who want it keep changing their argument.

  31. peter n,
    you make some good points. just saying someone is ‘born that way,’ doesn’t mean we endorse their behavior. teenagers are ‘born’ to lay in bed all day and watch youtube all night. last i checked all mankind was ‘born’ to sin, even cargill’s sweet little boy will prove that if not already. however why two people of the same gender can’t legally marry is because that is not what marriage is, or ever was–despite arguments that marriage has at times been polygamous, adulterated, or otherwise abused by men. until recently, marriage has never been defined as between two people of the same gender, and there really is no reason to change that now. anyone who thinks so on this site will be demonized as ‘homophobic,’ but that is clearly a knee-jerk reaction and a misunderstanding of the word.

    susan, do you really think it is ever legal to beat or murder anyone? and do you think that endorsing gay marriage addresses those issues? you are probably correct that churches that preach that homosexuality is a sin will have their tax exempt status removed. obviously you think that’s a good thing. what other litmus tests should we apply to church preaching and tax exempt status? who will be the church doctrine police at the IRS, and whom do you trust to assess that?

  32. Kathy,

    You wrote:

    “until recently, marriage has never been defined as between two people of the same gender, and there really is no reason to change that now”.

    The fact is, marriage is defined as whatever a culture chooses to define it. Polygamy, exchange of goods, whatever a culture says it is, it always has been. “Marriage” is more of a descriptive term than a prescriptive term in that regard.

    Now “Christian” marriage has traditionally been between one man and one (usually quite subservient) woman, but the “Christian” definition of marriage should not define the rules of a secular nation of laws, which had the wisdom of establishing a system that can change the definition of certain social arrangements and entities through the legislature and protected by the courts, be it the value of a human (at one point 3/5 for some) or what constitutes a marriage.


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