African American, Hispanic pastors lead
the charge against gay marriage.
Roderick Caesar, 53, thinks he was 17 or 18 when a friend confessed,
"I am in the life," meaning he was homosexual. Caesar sat with his
friend and prayed. "I told him I would be his friend until the day
he died. I also told him I would pray that he would not find
Caesar, pastor of Bethel Gospel
Tabernacle in Jamaica, Queens, helped organize a rally against gay
marriage at City Hall on March 29 with the 400-church City Covenant
Coalition, led by Puerto Rican-Italian Joseph
Mattera. Earlier, on March 14, more than 8,000 Hispanic
evangelicals converged in the Bronx for the nation's largest rally
to date against gay marriage. One of the speakers was a white
Assemblies of God pastor.
In New York City and elsewhere,
African American and Hispanic pastors are facing off against a large
homosexual-rights contingent over the issue of gay marriage. For
Christian leaders steeped in personal compassion, the confrontation
is full of anguish, fear, and anger.
When the Supreme Judicial Court in
Massachusetts ordered gay marriage to become state law this month,
local black and Hispanic clergy associations quickly joined in
protest (CT, April, p. 90). A month later, African American pastors,
organized by the Los Angeles based Coalition on Urban Renewal and
Education (CURE), and in association with the Family Research
Council, came from across the country to support their beleaguered
"This is a line in the sand for black
churches across the nation," said CURE founder Star Parker.
The Alliance for Marriage (AFM),
which advocates a constitutional amendment to protect marriage,
released a poll on March 4 showing that 63 percent of Hispanics and
62 percent of African Americans support an amendment defining
marriage as between a man and a woman. AFM has broad support among
minorities. "Concern for stronger families trumps jobs," said
founder Matt Daniels. "It trumps the environment for all voter
Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx had two
brothers who were homosexual. As a pastor in the Church of God
(Cleveland, Tenn.) and overseer of more than 100 Pentecostal
churches, he knew many other church leaders who had seen members
drifting from broken families into drugs, homosexuality, and death.
Ten years ago, Diaz, a Democrat,
complained that city support for the Gay Games was taking funding
from poor families. His comments drew a torrent of abuse from
"They hit me with a pitcher of water,"
Diaz said. "They called me 'homophobe,' 'preacher of hate.' I
received threatening letters. Publicly, that issue forced me to
Now a state senator, Diaz organized
hundreds of Bronx Hispanic churches for the March 14 rally on the
steps of the state supreme court. "We are praying, singing, and
denouncing gay marriages," he told those attending. "I can be
expelled from the [Democratic] Party for what I am saying, but none
of that counts before the Lord."
Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the
Bush campaign, said the minority vote could make a difference. Other
Republican strategists say that the push for homosexual marriage
will split some Hispanic voters from the Democrats, while keeping
socially conservative African American Democrats home on Election
For Caesar, the issue is not about
politics. He cannot forget when his friend came back to the church
from out of "the life." "He walked in and told me that one day he
woke up and realized that his lifestyle is not his destiny." The
pastor said that since his friend wasn't legally entangled in a gay
marriage, "he never looked back."
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today.
May 2004, Vol. 48,
No. 5, Page 22