Yesterday, the Washington Post published a wonderful article about Pastor Delman Coates, of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland. In the article, Pastor Coates discusses his support for marriage equality and acceptance of LGBT people in the African American community. After his first appearance with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in late January, Pastor Coates saw a marked increase in attendance at Mount Ennon Baptist Church. He says that “the people in the pew are further along on this issue [of LGBT acceptance] than those of us in the pulpit” and is not surprised that his stance on marriage equality has encouraged new members to join the church.
The article, however, paints Pastor Coats as an anomaly in the Black Church, which is untrue. Although it is true that a majority of people identified as Black Protestants do not support marriage equality, a recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that fully one third of Black Protestants surveyed are supportive. This is no insignificant minority. Members of Historically Black Churches make up 18% of Maryland’s population, more than double the numbers seen on a national level, and constitute over one million voters in the state.
African American religious leaders have spoken out in support of marriage equality in other states, as well. Reverend Jacqueline Lewis, of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, was adamant in her support before the New York State legislature voted in favor of marriage equality last summer. Rev. Lewis was one of four pastors profiled in an article in Ebony Magazine highlighting support for marriage equality in African American faith communities. Also highlighted was Reverend Dennis Wiley, a Maryland resident and pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Washington D.C. Since marriage equality passed in the District, Rev. Wiley has been honored to perform a number of weddings for gay and lesbian couples, saying “if we are going to treat LGBT people as equals, they need to be able to consecrate their loving and committed relationship.” Reverend Janyce L. Jackson, pastor at Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church in Newark, New Jersey, has also spoken out in support of marriage equality in her state.
GLAAD commends the Washington Post for profiling Pastor Coates and the important stand he has taken in support of LGBT equality. We also wish to remind journalists and the media, however, that Pastor Coates is not alone in his support. Many members of Black Churches are supportive of LGBT equality; by reinforcing the idea that they are an insignificant minority, we silence their voices.