Between a Frock and a Hard Place

Private opinions about gayness override civil-rights beliefs among some black clergy

The minister offered a paraphrase from one section of the rule book, Romans 1:18: "Mankind should not lay with mankind. And womankind should not lay with womankind. It's an abomination."

But isn't there also Scripture beseeching God's children to accept even men who like men and women who like women?

"Listen, as a Christian individual, we love 'em," the reverend exclaimed. "I love the homosexual. But I just don't like their lifestyle, because it goes against the principle of God. If one wanted to change their life -- listen, if the homosexuals wanted to come and join my church they're welcome to come join, but I'm not going to change my teaching. And I hope that they'd be convicted by their heart and change their life. Just like an alcoholic or a drug dealer."

And then, Bennett noted, there are the children. "I have a daughter nine years old and I wouldn't want my daughter to come outside one day and my next-door neighbor's child is outside too and tells her, 'I have two daddies' or 'I have mommies.' That's confusing. Really, I'm serious. I'm so wholehearted serious. I don't think it's a discrimination issue. And I don't want to sound redundant. I just think it's a special privilege that they want.

"They want the rights to say, 'Hey listen. Just because of my lifestyle, I don't want to be refused a job, or [be] refused living in certain areas, or ... a certain complex,'" Bennett explained. In other words, the special privilege of not being discriminated against.

The AACCC's "special privileges" lingo comes from Take Back Miami-Dade's 45-year-old communications director Eladio José Armesto. It is featured on a campaign flyer proclaiming that Martin Luther King, Jr., would be "OUTRAGED!" if he knew that "homosexualist extremists" opposing repeal were invoking his name in the current battle.

"I was quoted in the back of there saying that we are upset about it because they compare this against civil rights," Bennett pointed out. His quote: "To compare the 'sexual preference' amendment to the civil-rights movement is embarrassing. It's nothing but a smoke screen. Our forefathers fought for us to ride the bus, be able to go to restaurants. The civil-rights movement has nothing to do with homosexuality."

A rival flyer, however, includes this quote from the slain civil-rights leader's widow, Coretta Scott King: "If the basic rights of one group can be denied, all groups become vulnerable." And the CRB's Larry Capp found Bennett's reasoning "very convoluted and illogical."

"I mean, you can't get a little bit pregnant. Either you're opposed to discrimination or you're not," he observed, putting on his private-citizen's cap. "When you start making exceptions it's a very dangerous and slippery slope, in my opinion." Moreover, he said, Take Back Miami-Dade is acting like it has special privileges over the King legacy. "When did any one group copyright that strategy?" Capp wondered.

With his executive-director cap back on, Capp said the CRB is going to encourage people on both sides of the campaign to "play fair and be accurate" and "to stay away from slanderous and hurtful and insulting statements."

Bennett and his AACCC associates are pressing ahead with their MLK-Outraged strategy, with more leaflets courtesy of the Take Back Miami-Dade leadership: "We're trying to get out like 50,000 flyers to the churches, and I'm contacting the pastors asking them to make an announcement from their church pulpit on the repeal and ask the congregation to vote 'Yes' on the repeal."

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