TAMPA — A group of black and Latino pastors pledged Wednesday to rally support among their congregations for Amendment 2, the measure that would essentially ban gay marriage in Florida.
The pastors had gathered at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church for a meeting with the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a national organization that seeks to organize churches and community leaders around moral issues. Wednesday's meeting was the first of five gatherings in Florida to mobilize minority pastors for Amendment 2.
The coalition also is holding similar forums for pastors in California and Arizona, where marriage amendments will appear on the ballot in November.
"We are not standing here against gays," Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. the coalition's leader and pastor of Hope Christian Center in Beltsville, Md., said at a news conference at the Tampa church. "We're standing simply to proclaim that marriage should be preserved."
Nearly 40 pastors stood behind Jackson, the second gathering of bay area pastors working to support Amendment 2. This month, a separate, similar effort launched that drew mostly white Southern Baptist pastors.
Jackson, who is a black Democrat, said he aims to build bridges between minority and white clerics so they can work together on social issues from a biblical perspective.
Among the local pastors who spoke in favor of the amendment Wednesday were the Rev. W. James Favorite, Beulah Baptist's pastor, and the Rev. Moses Brown, president of the Feed Our Children ministry in Tampa.
Support for the amendment among the clergy is not universal. An group of interfaith clerics met last week in Clearwater to create a campaign opposing the measure. That group argued the amendment is a civil rights issue that, if passed, will affect the benefits and rights for all unmarried couples, including senior citizens.
"As people of faith and of good will, we can, will and should disagree about what constitutes marriage." said the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, the pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clearwater and leader of the interfaith opposition effort. "But to legislate a certain perspective is writing religious discrimination into the Constitution."
Several civil rights groups and leaders, including the Florida NAACP, also oppose the amendment, Janamanchi said.
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