Both sides in an upcoming vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Texas are recruiting clergy to promote their cause.
“Texas Baptists have taken a clear stand recognizing that homosexual behavior is a sin and that we absolutely believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman who pledge their love and fidelity to one another,” Charles Wade of the Baptist General Convention of Texas wrote in a letter being mailed to pastors this week.
“The Texas Marriage Amendment is expected to pass by a large majority, but our Christian community should not take that for granted,” Wade wrote. “We need to let our convictions be heard.”
A prominent African-American Baptist pastor, meanwhile, is speaking out for defeat of the amendment, titled Proposition 2.
William Lawson, retired founding pastor of Houston’s 5,000-member Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, joined community leaders and officials at a press conference unveiling a series of local television ads featuring same-sex couples and parents of gays telling their own stories.
Carolyn Mobley, associate pastor at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, appears in one commercial with partner Adrian Bouy titled “God Loves Us.”
“God loves us like everyone else and wants the same thing for us as God wants for God’s straight children,” Mobley says. “To have a help-mate, to have a companion, is an important human thing.”
The spot closes with a text reading: “How would you feel if you couldn’t marry the person you love? Vote no on No. 2.”
Another spot features Ron and Mary Jo Dupre, parents of two gay sons.
Introducing himself as “a typical redneck,” Ron Dupre said his first reaction on learning about his sons was, “What did I do wrong?”
“And off course, I hadn’t done anything wrong,” he continues.
“Having gay sons puts your faith to the test,” Mary Jo Dupre adds. “My entire Christian faith can be summed up with Jesus Christ’s two new commandments, which was to love God and to love each other. He didn’t say love each other unless they’re gay.”
The amendment, which will appear on the ballot Nov. 8, would define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” and prohibit the state from “creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”
While Texas already outlaws gay marriage, supporters say the ban is needed to prevent courts from challenging the law.
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said he hopes referendums in Texas and other states will lead to amending the United States Constitution defining marriage as between a man and woman.
“They’re all free to practice their lifestyle,” McKissic said of gays, according to the New York Times, “but not to redefine marriage.”
McKissic is a leader in the Texas Restoration Project, a drive started in May to register 300,000 voters who will “vote as Christians.”
Critics charge the movement is a front to help re-elect Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, in 2006, who has spoken at “Pastors’ Policy Briefings” in support of the amendment.
The Texas Freedom Network on Wednesday filed a complaint saying Texas Restoration Project should have to file as a political committee and reveal its sources of funding.
“The Texas Restoration Project appears to be acting less as a faith organization than as a political committee,” TFN President Kathy Miller in a sworn complaint. “This isn’t an issue about people of faith exercising their solemn right to participate in the political process. It’s an issue of political organizations obeying the law.”
“These events have all the trappings of expensive campaign rallies, complete with pandering politicians and speaker after speaker calling on pastors to support the amendment and to get their congregants to do the same,” Miller said. “The bottom line is that Texans have a right to know who is paying so much money to influence our elections.”
Advocates for the ban, meanwhile, say they are concerned that amendment opponents plan to illegally bus out-of-state residents to Texas to cast votes against the measure.
So far, 18 states have amended their state constitutions to preclude the recognition of same-sex marriage, with most of the amendments also forbidding any legal recognition of same-sex families.
There are an estimated 43,000 same-sex couples in Texas. Opponents say a constitutional ban could have unintended consequences, such as denying long-term couples rights and protections such as hospital visits and health benefits.
“We are not second-class citizens, and we need the same resources and rights available to heterosexual couples to protect our families,” the MCC minister Mobley said in a press release announcing the TV commercials, which began airing this week in Houston.
“These groundbreaking ads will introduce Houston voters to their gay and lesbian neighbors and underscore that this constitutional amendment will hurt real people and real families,” said Dave Fleisher of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which spent $200,000 to develop the commercials and $15,000 to air them through next Tuesday.
Organizers hope the ads will work better than earlier campaigns around the country, which stressed protecting rights, by showing the human side of the issue.
“We think it is important to speak to voters openly and honestly about our lives and relationships,” Fleisher said. “When voters know who we are, many more of them see the need for marriage equality for gay families and consider standing with us on the issue.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Click here to view the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force commercials opposing Proposition 2 in Texas.