The Coalition of African American Pastors announced Tuesday that it does not agree with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s decision to endorse the legalization of same-sex marriage.
CAAP launched a petition last week to oppose broadening the legal definition of marriage.
The coalition includes leaders of black churches and veteran civil rights leaders who marched with Martin Luther King Jr.
The NAACP voted to endorse same-sex marriage Saturday, and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous publicly endorsed gay marriage Monday.
“The NAACP has abandoned its historic responsibility to speak for and safeguard the civil rights movement,” CAAP founder and President William Owens said Tuesday. “We who marched with Rev. King did not march one inch or one mile to promote same-sex marriage.”
Jealous called gay marriage a civil right, and said he believes “it is the responsibility, the history of the NAACP to speak up on the civil rights issues of our times.”
CAAP says it believes gay Americans should have equal civil rights, but that it does not believe there should be a right to legally marry someone of the same sex.
On behalf of the coalition, Owens said, “We call on all Americans to respect the legitimate civil rights of gay people to be free from violence, harassment, to vote, to hold jobs.”
Owens drew from King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” to explain what he believes is the difference between a just and unjust law.
According to Owens, a just law is a man-made code that squares with the law of God, and an unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with moral law.
Owens also drew from St. Thomas Aquinas and said, “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”
“Same-sex marriage is an attempt to do the opposite of what Rev. King did,” Owens said. “It’s an attempt by men to use political power to declare that an act contrary to God’s law and to the natural law is a civil right.”
CAAP held a press conference last week in Memphis, where King died, to call on President Barack Obama to reconsider his support for gay marriage.
“Our only weapons in this fight are the weapons of Rev. King: truth and love and courage,” Owens said.