Openly Gay Black Politicians Take On Anti-Gay Black Clergy
March 7, 2008
Cambridge, Massachusetts may be light years ahead of many other places around the country regarding electing openly gay officials, but Mayor Denise Simmons, the country's first openly lesbian black mayor and City Councilor Ken Reeves, the first openly gay black mayor, received a rude political awakening from the homophobic elements of the religious black community. They addressed it in a talk to students at Harvard. (Cambridge Chronicle):
Though Simmons has had her conflicts with School Committee members and Reeves has clashed with the press, by and large, both said most of the homophobic sentiment they've incurred as politicians and as people has been at the hands of black clergy and religious leaders. One incident Simmons pointed to as being among her most discouraging as an elected official was a City Council meeting shortly after the 2004 legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. After numerous attempts to tap the support of the black religious community on education, crime and economic issues relating to the black community, Simmons said she was shocked that one of the only unified communications the council had received from the city's black churches was a letter denouncing gay marriage.
"Without forewarning, the black clergy got together and wrote us a letter saying that they were against gay marriage," Simmons said. "The really horrific part is that they never came and talked to us. I've never been able to explain it. It was one of the saddest moments for me in my political life, because I expected so much more."
...Reeves, who recently left as a member of St. Paul AME Church, said he too had been let down by the clergy. Reeves said he had loved being a part of the St. Paul family, but the church's opposition to gay marriage ultimately forced him to find a new parish.
"I got to the point where I was sitting on the edge of the pew, wondering when the denouncement was going to come," Reeves said. "I wasn't going to be denounced without having something to say back."