I must give credit to gay activists on one count. They have managed to get evangelical black pastors around the country to overcome their natural aversion to politics. These pastors have good instincts about what they can and cannot ignore and they have concluded that legalization of gay marriage is an issue they cannot ignore.
It is true that some African Americans of note, such as Coretta Scott King, have expressed sympathy for claims of gays that their movement is but the newest chapter of the civil rights movement. But these black notables are exceptions rather than the rule. Polls show that African Americans are registering among the strongest groups in the nation in opposition to legalization of gay marriage. What I hear from the pastors in my own network around the country confirms this. It takes a lot for these pastors to leave their pulpits and head for Washington. But this issue is causing them to do just that.
Why are blacks, who know so well the reality of discrimination, so uniformly unsympathetic to the case that the gay community is making?
Wilfred McClay, a history professor from the University of Tennessee, gets it with the following observation about black attitudes on this issue: "It is not just that they know when their movement is being hijacked. It is that the religious sensibility that animated the civil rights movement, and that is still very much alive in the American black community today, is bound up in a biblical world view that would no more countenance the radical redefinition of marriage than it would the re-imposition of slavery."
There is real outrage in the black community and McClay is on the right track in his analysis. Blacks know instinctively that the debate on gay marriage is the symptom and not the problem. They know that the root problem is the implicit de-legitimization and marginalization in the United States today of traditional standards of right and wrong.
Blacks know that it was such rationalizations of ultimate standards that opened the door to slavery and its perpetuation and justification by our nation's highest political bodies and courts for a good portion of our nation's history. Without an anchor in ultimate standards, blacks know that the best politics and law, even in as great a country as ours, can lead anywhere.