A small group of Black pastors in Chicago have launched a radio and robo-call campaign to oppose Illinois' marriage equality bill, reports the Associated Press and the Northwest Herald. The robo-calls and radio spot feature the voice of Sen. James Meeks, the outspoken anti-gay mega-church pastor and former state senator.
The radio ads and “robo-calling” [target] residents in black communities urging them to ask their representatives to vote against the bill. A new group called the African American Clergy Coalition said it began airing 60-second commercials Tuesday on black radio stations and also plans a “street campaign” to supplement the telephone campaign. The phone messages feature the voice of former state Sen. James Meeks, who is senior pastor of Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church.
The pastors working to defeat gay marriage are joined in their opposition by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the Catholic Conference of Illinois and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The majority of Black legislators from the Chicago-area are expected to support the marriage bill.
The radio campaign actually began on Monday. Two ads aired during my Monday segment on WVON 1690, the well-known Black talk radio station. So far, the audio has not been posted online but I'll keep looking ...
Meeks was a candidate in the 2011 mayoral cycle but withdrew before the election.
Meeks opposition to Illinois' landmark 2010 vote on civil unions drew harsh criticism from fellow politicians, Black leadership and LGBT activists. Meeks—who has called homosexuality "an evil sickness"—was the only black legislator voting against the bill. Meeks also opposed Illinois' LGBT non-discrimination legislation and was the only Black in the General Assembly to vote against that bill, too.
Meanwhile: The Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus is lobbying today in Springfield, reports Kate Sosin at the Windy City Times.
The organization issued a statement on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, highlighting disparities among Black LGBT people and pushing lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill. The statement notes that Black gay man face elevated discrimination and stigma.
"We have fought for issues of justice and equality as members of the broader LGBT community—from Stonewall, to the elimination of anti-gay policies, to the fight to reduce HIV incidence and other health disparities," the statement reads. "We also know the history of our culture—from the Middle Passage, to slavery, to Jim Crow, to voting rights. At one time in American history, slaves were considered 3/5 of a person and were denied the right to marry. Only within the last half-century were inter-racial marriages fully legalized."
The statement goes on to argue that marriage recognition will improve the lives of LGBT youth, offering youth the "hope for societal legitimacy." "For LGBT youth of color who face bullying and violence, marriage equality offers a new hope for achieving the ultimate aspiration for their relationships and a legal foundation upon which they can build happy, loving families," the statement reads.
The Senate approved its marriage bill by a 34-21 vote on Valentine's Day. The bill awaits a floor vote in the House. Speaker Michael Madigan has acknowledged that passage will be "very difficult."
Illinois would become the second state after Iowa to approve equal marriage in the nation's heartland. Same-sex couples can now legally marry in nine states—Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington—and the District of Columbia.
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