News (USA)

Chicago-area black clergy members amp up support for same-sex marriage

CHICAGO — A group of black Chicago area clergy members say they’re supporting gay marriage not as a religious issue, but because it’s a matter of equality.

Legislation allowing same sex couples to marry faces tough prospects in the Illinois House. Speaker Michael Madigan has estimated it’s a dozen votes short.

Rev. Dr. B. Herbert Martin

The pastors said Thursday that they’re reaching out to lawmakers.

“My life teaches me that discrimination is dead wrong, no matter whom it may target. Gay and lesbian couples believe in family and commitment and this legislation is about equal treatment under the law,” said Rev. Dr. B. Herbert Martin, pastor of the Progressive Community Center, The People’s Church.

“This is a continuation of the civil rights I have worked for all of my life. It is the right thing to do and in keeping with my faith,” added Martin

“Our representatives in the House will be deciding whether loving gay and lesbian couples get a marriage license down at the courthouse – not a church. While there is a diversity of theology on the boundaries of religious marriage, this is about civil marriage,” said Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver, of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church.

The group includes the Rev. Carlton Pearson, who was once a leading Pentecostal minister until he began teaching that everyone goes to heaven, including gays. The move angered many. He says it’s a risk when clergy members support gay marriage because of potential backlash, but feels it’s the right thing to do.

The faith leaders’ encouragement comes at a time of strong support for marriage equality in Illinois, especially within the black community.

A December 2012 Public Policy Poll showed that in Illinois, 60 percent of African Americans surveyed supported same-sex marriage. A recent Crain’s/Ipsos poll shows Illinoisans supporting marriage equality, with 50 percent in favor and only 29 percent opposed. Of the 50 percent in support, 37 percent “strongly” support the freedom to marry.

Meanwhile, another group of black pastors is opposing the bill. They include former state senator, the Rev. James Meeks.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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