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President Obama, Gay Marriage and the Black Church: Detroit Opinion

It's a dilemma for Black ministers and the church community: They've preached against homosexuality, but now, the president has expressed support. Where does this leave LGBT folks of faith?

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Chrysanthia Chenault and Akeah Fluker gaze into each other’s love-swept faces at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.

Standing before two ministers with other lesbian couples, they exchange vows in a commitment ceremony during the recent Motor City Pride, a celebration among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Holding hands and smiling, they vow: “I, a child of God, take you, my gift from God, to be my partner, to love, honor and comfort you through this journey of life we share together and to be faithful to you as long as we both shall live.” They exchange rings and kiss under the sunny June sky.

“We thought about going to New York to get legally married,” says Chenault, 33, sporting ornate cornrows in her hair and a royal blue shirt beside Fluker, 20, who wore a long black dress. “But with our schedules for work and school, that will have to wait. Then we saw this, and felt it was the right thing to do.” 

Although the union feels right for the New Haven couple, for now, it’s as close to a wedding as they can get in Michigan. In 2004, voters banned same-sex marriage and civil unions by approving a constitutional amendment.

Eight years later, the several enamored same-sex couples like Chenault and Fluker, who exchanged vows at Hart Plaza this year, celebrated in a deceitfully calm eye of a storm. Their wish to legalize same-sex marriage has become a lightning rod issue in the 2012 presidential election.

Controversy has thundered louder since May 9, when President Barack Obama became the first American head of state to endorse same-sex marriage.  Five days later, “Newsweek” magazine called him America’s “First Gay President” on a cover showing a gay pride rainbow halo over his head.

This dramatically amped up the same-sex debate in the Black church, putting many African-American clergy in a very thorny position. On one hand, they adhere to the Black church’s historic homophobia that is so strong that many clergy and churchgoers closet their homosexuality rather than endure fire and brimstone condemnation and outright expulsion. At the same time, they encourage churchgoers to re-elect America’s first Black president.

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