Major Marion Barry's well-publicized support for gay rights was sharply criticized yesterday by several influential city ministers, some of whom said they fear that the major's prominent appearances at gay-sponsored events may encourage homosexuality.
"His presence it tantamount to giving sanction to it [homosexuality]," said the Rev. William A. Treadwell, paster of Berean Baptist Church 924 Madison Street NW.
Treadwell and other clergymen expressed their concerns during a meeting yesterday of Barry and about 40 ministers from various denominations.
It was one of a series of sessions that Barry, the candidate in last year's election with the least support among church leaders and the most among election with the least support among church leaders and the most among gays, has held in an effort to broaden his political base in the wake of his slim election victory last year.
The criticism highlighted some of the behind-the-scenes jousting among special interest groups who were on different sides in that election campaign.
Gay rights advocates, shunned by the early favorites in the campaign because they were an unknown political factor, supported underdog Barry. The gays played an indispensable part in his surprise victory and were rewarded after the election with access to the major, appointments to government jobs and positions and the ability to have the mayor appear at functions they sponsor.
The ministers, traditionally considered the equivalent of ward bosses in this predominantly black city, did not support Barry until after his election was virtually assured. They subsequently have been without the influence on city policy and access to social programs that they enjoyed earlier when Walter E. Washington, the son-in-law of a prominent District of Columbia preacher, was major.
The concerns expressed by the ministers did not prevent them from endorsing a proposal to set up an interdenominational committee that would advise Barry about social affairs.
Bishop Smallwood E. Williams of the Bible Way Church, 1130 New Jersey Ave. NW, said he could work on the committee even though he disagrees with the major's stance on gay rights.
Barry defended his support for gay rights, according to several persons who attended yesterday's meeting. He said that as major of the city he must represent all of its residents, including those who are homosexuals.
In the past, Barry has talked of homosexual rights as a human right similar to the civil rights that blacks fought for in the 1950s and 1960s.
Williams said he and many other ministers share Treadwell's concerns.
It can be a big issue any time any group attempts to dicate beyond their size as a constituency and tries to enforce its belief on other people," Williams said. "It seems to me it's moving in that direction."
Treadwell said he could not participate on the committee because his own "indirect association" with a gay rights advocate would make it appear that he advocated homosexuality.
"I have no problems with a person being homosexual," Treadwell said. "But it's between them and God."
"This is a grave concern," said the Rev. Raymond R. Robinson of Israel Baptist Church, president of the Committee of 100 Ministers. "I'm disturbed about the prominence they [homosexuals] are getting. Sometimes you have them teaching in the schools. That's bad influence on these young boys."
No members of the advisory committee were chosen yesterday, according to a Barry aide. Nevertheless, Williams termed establishment of the committee a "forward step" because, "there was some estrangement between Barry and the churches during the campaign." CAPTION: Picture, MAYOR MARION BARRY . . . trying to broaden base