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Several weeks ago, black pastors from around the nation, under the sponsorship of my organization, CURE, gathered for a press conference at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to express support for President Bush’s proposal for a constitutional marriage amendment. The amendment would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The date and place for the event were selected to mark the 41st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The congregations of the pastors who participated in this event have a combined total of well over 40,000 members.

The gay marriage issue has struck a nerve in the black community and may well mark the beginning of a sea change in black voting behavior. Pastors who have voted Democratic all their lives have told me and others that this issue has lead them out of the Democratic Party.

A CBS-New York Times poll on the marriage amendment done last March shows blacks more aligned with Republicans than with Democrats. The poll showed 59 percent overall in favor of the marriage amendment. However, 77 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of African Americans were in favor.

These pastors are worked up over this issue because it touches fundamentally the core concerns they have for their communities. They know that the bedrock on which human lives and communities are constructed is made of spiritual and moral fiber. And they know that the profound social problems in their communities stem from the shattered state of that bedrock.

Billy Graham once said: “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”

Leaders of the black church are beginning to grasp that the welfare state and the politics of the liberal left damaged character in the black community. They know that the first order of business in these communities is the reconstituting of its spiritual and moral base. In this context, for these pastors, the idea of our society formally abandoning traditional standards of sexual behavioral and traditional concepts of marriage and family is outrageous.

Simultaneous with the Washington press conference, CURE released a policy report titled “The Impact of Gay Marriage on the Black Community.” The report shows study after study documenting coincidence of promiscuity, disease and family breakdown with homosexual behavior. Regardless of whether one chooses to identify homosexual behavior as the chicken or the egg of social and moral breakdown, it without question is coincident with it.

The last thing that the black community – which has the nation’s highest incidence of new AIDS cases, out-of-wedlock births and abortions – needs is formal institutionalization of our nation’s moral degeneration.

A legitimate concern commonly expressed, even among social conservatives who oppose gay marriage, is whether our Constitution is the appropriate place to address this social issue. I confess to having had this same concern. Does defining marriage really belong in our Constitution? However, Judge Robert Bork has laid out a convincing case that without such an amendment, legalization of gay marriage by our Supreme Court is a virtual certainty.

Judge Bork depicts a scenario in which a gay couple is married in a state such as Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal. The two then move to a state where it is not legal and ask for recognition. The state will invoke the Defense Of Marriage Act to deny the legality of the marriage. This decision will then be appealed to the Supreme Court, which can be expected uphold the appeal and invalidate the act.

In the same vein of questioning about the marriage amendment, we might ask if we really needed to amend our Constitution to prohibit slavery. Unfortunately, we did.

Our society and our institutions are already under daily siege by the liberal elites at the helm of our entertainment industry who get rich producing an endless flow of television and movies that appeal to the very worst instincts of our young people. In a way, the federal marriage amendment would act as a counterbalance to our First Amendment, which essentially guarantees that popular culture will be seized by irresponsible and exploitive entertainment industry power brokers.

We should keep in mind that legalization of gay marriage would be a significant formal gesture of our society to reject a basic tenet of Christianity and Judaism. To reject one basic tenet is to reject the legitimacy of the whole package. The Judeo-Christian tradition would become a “lifestyle” rather than a central cultural pillar of our society.

Black pastors see every day in their communities that societies without values and standards do not nurture free people, but nurture slaves. We don’t want this. Blacks have been struggling for freedom for hundreds of years. This chapter of our struggle must be defined by restoring traditional values and personal responsibility in our communities.

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