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Posted at 05:05 PM ET, 09/28/2009

SCLC Leader from L.A. Speaks Out for Same-Sex Marriage in D.C.

The Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will be in the District most of this week to try to drum up support for same-sex marriage within the African-American community.

Lee, who is heterosexual, has become a leading black advocate for same-sex marriage, a stance that has put him at odds with many of his peers in the faith community. After Lee came out against California's Proposition 8, which overturned same-sex marriage in that state, the leaders of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference tried to have him removed from his position in Los Angeles.

Lee has so far held onto his job, and he is not relenting from his support for same-sex marriage. In a series of private meetings and media events around town this week, Lee will be trying to erode African-Americans' long-held suspicion of same-sex marriage.

You can call him a countervailing force to the Bishop Harry Jackson, the Beltsville preacher who is leading the campaign against efforts by the D.C. Council to legalize same-sex marriage.

"It is clear to me that this is a civil rights issue," Lee said in an interview. "The challenge, however, particularly for the African-American community, is how to frame it as to not cause the clergy to believe they are compromising their Christian belief systems."

As Washington Post Columnist Robert McCartney noted in a recent column, a May survey by the Feldman Group found a stark racial divide among city residents on the question of legalizing same-sex marriage.

While whites in the District back same-sex marriage by more than 8 to 1, blacks were against it 48 percent to 34 percent.

But Lee, whose trip is sponsored by International Federation of Black Prides and the Courage Campaign, said he thinks he can help gay rights activists make inroads with African-Americans through "reasonable dialogue."

"I am not of the LGBT community, so there is no pushback like I am trying to force it on them," Lee said. "I am just trying to reason with them.... I think there is a way that people of faith can affirm the dignity of everyone's humanity without compromising your Christian or religious principles."

--Tim Craig

By Anne Bartlett  |  05:05 PM ET, 09/28/2009

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig

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