A group of Black pastors is admonishing President Obama and asking Congress to impeach U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder for allowing state prosecutors to refrain from enforcing bans on same-sex marriage in states that have laws against it.

The group, the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP), as of 8 a.m. Feb. 27, had collected 12,380 signatures on an online petition entitled “Holder has abandoned his oath.” The introduction to the petition criticizes Obama and his administration for “trampling on the rule of law” and calls out Holder for using his authority as attorney general “to coerce states to fall in line with the same-sex marriage agenda.”

The petition went up days after Holder waded even deeper into the same-sex marriage controversy—and drew criticism from some Republican legislators—by telling the New York Times that state attorneys general can choose not to defend laws against same-gender marriage that they believe to be discriminatory. Critics said that as the nation’s top prosecutor, it is Holder’s responsibility to defend laws, even those he opposes, and that he is obligated to insist that his counterparts in the states do the same. Gays have filed suit to fight bans against same-sex marriage in some states.

“Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” the Times quoted Holder as saying.

The petition says that 30 states have laws that define marriage as a “union of one man and one woman” and that Holder’s failure to order the enforcement of those laws is grounds for impeachment.

“Our nation calls for the building up of a healthier marriage culture; instead, our elected leaders are bent on destroying marriage, remaking it as a genderless institution and reorienting it to be all about the desires of adults rather than the needs of children,” the introduction to the petition reads.

The petition drive is the latest evidence that some members of the Black clergy still oppose marriage between same gender couples, even as discriminatory laws are being knocked down around the nation.

Many Black pastors in the Baltimore-Washington area, and nationally, protested loudly as elected leaders in Washington, D.C., then Maryland, passed laws that allowed for same-sex marriage. Pastors protested outside of D.C. Council meetings and at the Maryland statehouse in Annapolis, where the gay lobby rallied its forces on a daily basis to urge lawmakers to redefine marriage to allow same-gender couples to wed.

For conservative pastors, the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and a woman supersedes a belief by many that two people who love and are committed to each other should have the right to marry, regardless of gender.

The petition, addressed “To the congress of the United States,” asks that Holder be impeached for attempting to “undermine the states’ authority” on the issue of same-sex marriage.

While some pastors continue to protest same-sex marriage, others around the country are embracing it. The Rev. Delmon Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., drew criticism from some and praise from others after stepping forward 18 months ago to support same-sex marriage. Coates is now the running mate of gay Maryland gubernatorial candidate Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery County).

According to its website, the CAAP is also known as the Coalition for American Action and Progress. It is made up of conservative Black pastors. In October, the group held its annual leadership conference in the District, with conservative U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as the keynote speaker.

In posts on the CAAP Facebook page, the Rev. William Owens, the founder and president, sent well wishes to Holder, who was hospitalized briefly on Feb. 27.
In a speech Feb. 25 at the National Press Club, where he announced the petition, Owens said he hopes to collect 1 million signatures. The count previously posted on the petition site has been removed.


Zachary Lester

AFRO Staff Writer