The Black Gay-Straight Alliance

Amid news stories about anti-gay pastors, the Rev. Delman Coates tells why he supports marriage equality.

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TR: You're becoming a leading voice on this controversial topic -- especially among African-American faith leaders. Are you not concerned about potential backlash?

DC: No. Not at all. And as far as my church family is concerned, this has been our best year yet. When I first spoke out in favor of marriage equality, there were many who thought I had committed professional suicide. But we've had about 1,000 people join our congregation in the first nine months of this year alone. And we're largely African American.

That suggests to me that the people in the pews are further along on this issue than those on the pulpit. I don't want to be associated with the kind of rhetoric I've heard from black ministers for decades: denigrating gays and lesbians and doing it in the name of God. I don't have that kind of Jesus, and I certainly don't know him that way.

TR: What's your opinion about President Obama leading the charge on this topic?

DC: I am hugely proud of President Obama's leadership. As I've said before, he was elected president of the United States -- not pastor of the United States. Religious dogma cannot and should not influence his policy judgments. What is so sad is that these wedge issues end up distracting citizens and politicians from more important things, like health care, education, unnecessary wars abroad and poverty.

TR: Do you see a role for religious leaders in politics?

DC: As far as the black church is concerned, it is time for us to recognize that we have a long, vibrant history of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters serving in our churches. The friendship between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin should serve as an example for all of us. I believe the role of the majority is to protect the interests of the minority, and I pray that my voice will help serve others -- gay, lesbian, straight and transgendered alike. The doors of heaven are always open.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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