Proving that there’s no fool like a God-fearing fool, William Owens, founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors, recently announced the launch of a national campaign against President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. Speaking at a press conference Owens condemned Obama’s “Judas” like ways for “bowing to homosexual money,” blustering that he didn’t march “one foot or one yard” in the civil rights movement “for a man to marry a man.” Owens’ posse brings to mind a similar campaign waged against gay rights advocate Reverend Eric Lee in 2009 at the height of the Prop 8 debate. During Lee’s tenure as head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference he was threatened with removal because of his outspoken support of same sex marriage. Then as now, conservative black pastors argued that support for same sex marriage was contrary to civil rights. But Owens has ramped up the invective with the suggestion that same sex marriage breeds child molestation. According to Owens, “If you watch the men who have been caught having sex with little boys, you will note that all of them will say that they were molested as a child.”
Straights are always fond of playing the gay predator card, ignoring evidence that most child molesters are heterosexual men. Heterosexist fixation on gay “pedophiles” (the term pedophilia refers to attraction to children and not to behaviors of sexual abuse) further marginalizes the epidemic of sexual violence against women and girls; violence that is often perpetuated within the sanctity of straight marriage in all the good straight Christian families that Owens wants to save. The tired debate over whether LGBT liberation is a civil rights issue hinges on proprietary claims to a legacy of struggle that presumably only straight black folk are entitled to. Thus, not only do Deuteronomy and Leviticus say gays are aberrant—but white gays speciously ride on the coattails of self-proclaimed “movement” blacks like Owens. According to this logic, equality for gays and lesbians isn’t a civil right because there were no state sanctioned segregation laws barring gays and lesbians from employment, schools or housing—an argument which is just as absurd as asserting that gender equity is not a civil rights issue because there were no poll taxes, grandfather clauses, or literacy tests for white women at the voting booth before 1920. In this reductive universe all women are white and all gays are white. The notion that systematized oppression, as well as systematized privilege and entitlement, intersect via multiple identities is unheard of. Yet black gay and lesbian slaves worked the plantation alongside straights while having their lives, identities and right to love tacitly if not violently suppressed by a regime that brutally exploited black bodies and black reproduction. Black gay and lesbian youth sit in classrooms where they are ritualistically called out of their names, dehumanized and rendered invisible by cultural norms that equate attractiveness, social acceptance and authentic masculinity and femininity with being heterosexual. And black gay and lesbian partners live in segregated neighborhoods, struggle with inequitable access to health care, jobs, and housing while being denied the privilege of marital benefits that provide straight families economic stability.
Owens is a consultant to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an outfit that has schemed to make same-sex marriage a “wedge issue” between gays and African Americans. The pastors’ campaign is timed to undermine black support for Obama in the 2012 election. By fingering Obama as a Judas to black religious interests Owens will find plenty of common ground with fellow Christian fascists in the Tea Party. They have a nice ropes course to guide him through. In the meantime let’s keep the family safe for hetero predators—the one’s protected and sanctioned by the Bible.