More than 100 African-American pastors are speaking out against a Michigan judge who overturned the 2004 voter-approved amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage in the state.
The pastors’ message is very clear – civil rights and gay rights are not comparable.
While the judge who overturned the ban on March 21, Bernard Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, never made specific comparisons to the civil rights when making his decision, the pastors point out that many of the arguments used in this case were similar to those that were used against interracial marriage back in the 1960s.
An amicus brief in the state’s gay marriage trial was filed on the pastors’ behalf on Wednesday and the initial ruling to overturn the same-sex marriage ban has been put on hold until the case is considered by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The main argument presented by the pastors is that gay rights cannot be compared to civil rights and the struggles of the LGBT community do come close to the hardships faced by African-Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
“The fact that American media or other factions erroneously characterize the traditional meaning of ‘marriage’ as being on par with the civil rights deprivations of Black Americans does not make it so,” the brief states. “Comparing the dilemmas of same-sex couples to the centuries of discrimination faced by Black Americans is a distortion of our country’s cultural and legal history.”
Minister Stacy Swimp of Revive Alive Missional Ministry added,
“To state that marriage redefinition is in any way similar to the civil rights movement is intellectually empty, dishonest and manufactured. When has anyone from the LGBT demographic ever been publicly lynched, specifically excluded from moving into neighborhoods, prohibited from sitting on a jury and denied the right to sue others because of their sexual preferences?”
The pastors specifically referenced the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, where the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws that banned interracial marriage.
During that case, the well-being of the children of interracial parents was brought into question and that argument parallels the logic used by Friedman when he overturned the same-sex marriage ban.
The 1967 case found that interracial parents would not threaten the well-being of a child, and Friedman argued that there was also no proof that same-sex parents would threaten the well-being of a child either.
The pastors, on the other hand, disagree.
The brief says that race is an “immutable” characteristic, while sexuality is a preference and “activity” that people engage in.
“The state has no responsibility to promote any person’s sexual proclivities, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise,” the brief states.
As for the judge’s take on the matter, court documents state “citizens of Michigan adopted the MMA [Michigan Marriage Act] on the premise that heterosexual married couples provide the optimal environment for raising children. The court rejects that rationale for several reasons.”
A survey conducted by Michigan State University earlier this year revealed that the support for same-sex marriage in Michigan has increased dramatically in recent years.
The survey found that nearly 50 percent of Black residents in Michigan were in support of gay marriage, up more than 30 percent from 2012.