In an unprecedented and historic move, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that same sex couples will be allowed to marry by the justice of the peace in the state starting June 17. Thousands of same sex couples, some of whom have remained together for decades, will be applying for marriage licenses at courthouses across the state.
California public health officials already have amended marriage license applications and told local officials to start issuing them to same-sex couples in June, even though the Secretary of State says an initiative that would again outlaw gay marriage in California has qualified for the November ballot.
If passed, language for marriage licenses would be amended to read “Partner A” and “Partner B” instead of “man” and “woman.”
The issue of same sex marriage has caused many residents in the African American community to debate whether a legal union should legally exist between two men or two women.
A poll taken on the streets of the black community elicited a varied number of opinions that revealed the community’s deep religious roots and conservative leanings on the issue of marriage.
Celanese Ray, 22, the married mother of a newborn four-month-old son, strongly felt that same sex marriages were wrong. “I don’t believe in it and I don’t think it’s right,” she observed. “Marrying someone of the same sex is not what God brought us on this earth for.”
Leon Poole, a barber, agreed, referring to the Bible. “I think same sex marriages are an abomination to God,” he declared. “God saw Sodom and Gomorra together and he destroyed the whole city. If these gays and lesbians know anything about God or Jesus, they know in their soul that same sex marriage is wrong. We all have temptations and evil desires, but the thing is, we don’t need to act on them. It says in First Corinthians that ‘Man should not lay with man and women should not lay with woman.’ I think that gays and lesbians should ask God for strength and guidance.”
But other community residents disagreed. “I think that’s a good thing,” said Cherise Hamilton, a finance manager. “I feel same sex couples should have all the benefits that are given to the heterosexual marriage couple.”
When asked whether she was bothered by critics who cited passages in the Bible that stated that same sex marriages were wrong, Hamilton was unfazed. “God said sin is sin. These critics want to pick on the gays and lesbians to say that people of the same sex should not lay together because it’s wrong, but on the other hand these same people are backbiting, cheating, and sleeping with whomever they want to. God said love is for everyone and we should love each other as God loves us. So who are they to judge what is right for the next person? If these critics don’t live in a glass house, they should cast the first stone.”
Pastor Clyde Oden of Bryant Temple AME Church said that the church would did not condone and would not perform same sex marriages. “My denomination does not recognize or advocate same sex marriages,” said Oden. “We believe that a marriage should only exist between a man and a woman. The fact that the state of California would sanction these marriages doesn’t change our position or our belief. It was discussed by the First AME Church four years ago as a church policy that same sex marriages are not to be sanctioned by the church.”
“I don’t approve of it,” said Alfred Buckle, 47, a barber. “It’s against the Bible. It’s telling the kids that it’s okay to marry the same sex. For me, its about the images that we are putting in front of the kids. They don’t need to see two people of the same sex together,” said Buckle.
“I feel that its a good thing and I look forward to seeing people being able to get their marriage licenses and become legally wed,” said Amalke Warren, a treatment educator at the Minority Aids Project. “The critics need to move beyond the Old Testament. With our modern day knowledge and insight into human sexuality, I feel that people need to begin to look into their hearts and stop using a really old and antiquated doctrine to justify their judgment of same sex couples and being unloving. In the New Testament, it says, ‘Judge not and love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
“I’m on the fence on this issue,” said community activist Linda Jay. “I like the fact that they will be getting benefits, especially if they have been working for 25 years and their mate is not allowed to use their benefits. I don’t think it’s fair. On the other hand, I’m on the fence as far as marriage. That’s between them and their God.”
“Why shouldn’t there be same sex marriages?” said Drea Hamilton, an accounting clerk. “It’s not affecting anybody else. I think these couples are marrying more for tax reasons because it will allow them to file their taxes as a couple. The only disadvantage I can see is if they get a divorce because that would affect the material stuff that they accumulated. I also think that it gives us freedom as human beings to express our rights.”