Black clergy fight Amendment One
By News & Record Mike Kernels
Photo Caption: The Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP, speaks out against Amendment One during a prayer and rally at Mount Zion Baptist Church on Sunday in Greensboro.
GREENSBORO — The black community traditionally has been against gay rights. But that wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon in a church on the way out of town.
In an event that at times seemed more like a revival than a rally, people filled the chapel of Mount Zion Baptist Church and stood united against the most contentious issue this primary season: Amendment One. The so-called marriage amendment.
There were blacks and whites, straights and gays.
Some came here looking their Sunday best.
Others just made sure they were here.
“We felt like it was precedent-setting,” said Greensboro’s Bill Guill, who came with his partner of 10 years. “I think, historically, the black community has been more silent on the gay issue than not.”
If approved Tuesday, Amendment One would define marriage in the state’s constitution as between one man and one woman. Any other type of domestic partnership wouldn’t be legally recognized.
The state already bans same-sex marriage. Amendment One would put that ban in the constitution, thus making it difficult for same-sex marriage to ever become legal.
Through the weekend, rallies such as the one at Mount Zion were held across the state by both sides as they made a final push to primary day.
The Mount Zion rally was in keeping with how the local opposition has fought the amendment. Well orchestrated and well attended, it was just the latest in a series of events that have kept the issue before the public during the past several weeks.
Shouts of “amen” and applause occurred throughout.
Audience members lifted their arms to the ceiling.
The room erupted more than once with standing ovations.
For 90 minutes, black clergy took to the podium and talked about how Amendment One was the “restriction of human rights.”
“This amendment may pass, but history needs to show that those who would deceive us, did not fool all of us,” said the Rev. Gregory Headen of Genesis Baptist Church in Greensboro.
The Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP, talked about how the media has wrongly “bought” into the idea that blacks are divided on gay rights.
“We did not start standing together when this amendment got on the ballot,” he said. “We’ve been standing together.”
It was a message that has been building for some time within the black community.
For the past few months, ministers have struggled about whether — or how — they should address Amendment One before their congregations.
But April saw a breakthrough.
That’s when 15 of the city’s most prominent black religious leaders came out against the proposal.
The Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity opposes it as well.
In total, about 100 black clergy in the Triad are against the amendment.
What portion of their congregations will join them Tuesday remains to be seen.
It was clear from audience questions that many are still trying to fully understand the amendment’s implications — a problem that has been a theme in polls.
As the rally ended, the audience lined the chapel, held hands and prayed.
Burlington’s Ken Smith, a 40-year-old in a same-sex relationship, was emboldened by the show of support.
“They know discrimination when they see it.”
Contact Mike Kernels at 373-7120 or firstname.lastname@example.org