Ebenezer pastor says gay marriage shouldn't be single election issue

At the very end of his Mother's Day sermon, Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, broached the subject of gay marriage on Sunday.

Warnock said he had been asked where he stands and where the church stands on the issue after President Barack Obama expressed his support for gay marriage last week.

He didn't say whether he was for or against gay marriage, but Warnock urged parishioners not to make gay marriage the only important issue in the 2012 presidential election.

"The president is entitled to his opinion," Warnock told congregants. "He is the president of the United States, not the pastor of the United States."

Warnock told the congregation no matter what side they are on regarding gay marriage, the church is about being inclusive.

"There are gay sisters and brothers all around us," he told the congregation. "The church needs to be honest about human sexuality. Some of them are on the usher board, they greeted you this morning," Warnock said.

Warnock did not speak with the media about the issue after the sermon.

"He wanted the focus to be on Mother’s Day today,” said Rev. Shanan Jones, assistant pastor for community affairs at the church.

Only 39 percent of African-Americans favor gay marriage, compared with 47 percent of white Americans, according to a Pew poll conducted this April. Forty-nine percent of blacks and 43 percent of whites are opposed.

But blacks — like other Americans — have become more supportive of same-sex marriage in recent years. Black support has risen dramatically since 2008, when only 26 percent of black people favored gay marriage and 63 percent were opposed, according to Pew.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a giant of the civil rights movement who delivered the benediction at Obama’s inauguration, said he agrees with Obama on gay marriage.

“I believe in equal rights,” Lowery said. “You can’t believe in equal rights for some. That’s an oxymoron.”

However: “Do I like it? I’m uncomfortable with it,” said Lowery, 90. “We grew up under boy-girl, man-woman, courtship and marriage.”

Channel 2 Action News and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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