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SCLC Leader from L.A. Speaks Out for Same-Sex Marriage in D.C.

The Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will be in the District most of this week to try to drum up support for same-sex marriage within the African-American community.

Lee, who is heterosexual, has become a leading black advocate for same-sex marriage, a stance that has put him at odds with many of his peers in the faith community. After Lee came out against California's Proposition 8, which overturned same-sex marriage in that state, the leaders of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference tried to have him removed from his position in Los Angeles.

Lee has so far held onto his job, and he is not relenting from his support for same-sex marriage. In a series of private meetings and media events around town this week, Lee will be trying to erode African-Americans' long-held suspicion of same-sex marriage.

You can call him a countervailing force to the Bishop Harry Jackson, the Beltsville preacher who is leading the campaign against efforts by the D.C. Council to legalize same-sex marriage.

"It is clear to me that this is a civil rights issue," Lee said in an interview. "The challenge, however, particularly for the African-American community, is how to frame it as to not cause the clergy to believe they are compromising their Christian belief systems."

As Washington Post Columnist Robert McCartney noted in a recent column, a May survey by the Feldman Group found a stark racial divide among city residents on the question of legalizing same-sex marriage.

While whites in the District back same-sex marriage by more than 8 to 1, blacks were against it 48 percent to 34 percent.

But Lee, whose trip is sponsored by International Federation of Black Prides and the Courage Campaign, said he thinks he can help gay rights activists make inroads with African-Americans through "reasonable dialogue."

"I am not of the LGBT community, so there is no pushback like I am trying to force it on them," Lee said. "I am just trying to reason with them.... I think there is a way that people of faith can affirm the dignity of everyone's humanity without compromising your Christian or religious principles."

--Tim Craig

By Anne Bartlett  |  September 28, 2009; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  Church and State , Tim Craig , same-sex marriage  
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Thank you Rev. Lee for understanding that this is, indeed, a civil rights issue. For those who object to same sex marriage on the basis of their religious beliefs, maybe we should propose that the government no longer be in the business of managing marriage. Perhaps we should pass a law that ALL unions be initated as civil unions. This would be the equivalent of having all couples having to get a marriage license. By virtue of having that civil union certificate, all unions will have the same civil rights.
Then, if you want to get MARRIED, you can go to the church of your choice, have the marriage ceremony of your choice and get a marriage certificate from your church.
By doing this we separate church and state in the matter of marriage and civil rights.

Posted by: stimberlake | September 28, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

What I don't understand is Why some people are against same sex marriage? Is it in some way harming them? Or are they scared that their spouse will leave them and marry some one of their same sex, because they know or think that their spouse is having an affair. Are these same people against mixed racial marriage's too.

Posted by: onesugar1 | September 28, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

...uh, what took you so long?

Posted by: carlaclaws | September 28, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

WaPo headline writers strike again. The home page headline link says, "D.C. Wire: SCLC Backs Same-Sex Marriage." Which, it turns out, is exactly the opposite of the truth.

I must say, though, that headline link got my attention!

Posted by: pundito | September 28, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Thank GOD! An African American religious leader who knows it's not right to pull up the civil rights ladder after you've climbed it-- leave it for other struggles. I hope he is persuasive.

Posted by: chaddsford1971 | September 29, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Same Sex Marriage has been on since 2003 here in Belgium and really it's no big deal. On the other hand, on marriage we've seen an a growing amount of very religious Muslim women undergoing plastic surgery to have a new virginity so they can get married. Muslims have nothing to do with Christians except maybe that they are a hypocritical homophobic bunch.

Posted by: dork50 | October 1, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

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