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After Rulings, Faith Leader Continues To Fight Gay Marriage


We are going to continue our conversation about how the Supreme Court's major rulings on same-sex marriage are affecting people's lives. We have a different perspective now. We're turning to Reverend Derek McCoy. He's an associate pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. He's also president of the Maryland Family Alliance, which opposed legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. Unsuccessfully, I should say. Pastor McCoy, thank you so much for speaking with us once again.

REVEREND DEREK MCCOY: Thank you for having me, I appreciate being here.

MARTIN: Well, you just heard our previous guest say that they very much feel, on her side of the question, that the wind is beneath their sails at this point. How do you feel?

MCCOY: Well, you know, we've felt consistently that we are about a group of people that are trying to voice an opinion about what they feel should be legal in the United States of America. Marriage has been this way for quite some time. It's been a fabric and a bedrock of society. It's been beneficial for children as we know it. So, you know, the conversation really hasn't changed.

What I think the SCOTUS decision and the Prop 8 decision has interjected into this is that this debate is still lively, it's still there. It's still - hasn't gone anywhere yet. There was not a Roe v. Wade type of ruling on marriage as we know it. And so I think this is one of those things right now where we're looking at it, and the voices of many citizens - black, white, Hispanic, Latino, I mean, you know, Indian, whatever, it doesn't make a difference of what creed or culture you're from - many people across the board supporting marriage and the definition between a man and woman.

MARTIN: You heard our previous guest say that already they feel that things have changed and, in fact, they have changed for certain people. What about, you know, for you? I mean, what about for you, what about for the people who share your point of view about this? Do you feel something has changed?

MCCOY: Well, it's an interesting thing. I think what has changed is that many people are more engaged now than even before. I think where before where people were saying well, you know, let this kind of debate go on, let the people talk about this issue. What they're saying now is wow, this is a issue where not only have we talked about - and it was interesting that she mentioned the issue of, you know, are people feeling that they're going to be having - have to preach on this issue or have to, you know, legalize marriages in their own pulpits. I don't think that's the case.

And we haven't, you know, tried to be the people out there just saying that. What we're saying is that this is a slight erosion of our religious freedom. It is an erosion of even people's rights. If we look at the Supreme Court decision by itself and look at 7 million people that voted for this issue, all of a sudden the Supreme Court said they, one, don't have standing.

And then that - even after they don't have standing, that means they couldn't speak for themselves on this issue, because guess what, Mayor Gavin and Attorney General already decided what they're going to do. They're throwing out any Supreme Court rulings. They didn't even let the ink dry on that issue.

MARTIN: I think that their argument is that this doesn't change your, or erode your religious practice in any way. They're saying that you can continue to define marriage as you define it. I mean, for example, the court does not determine that Christians should require - are required to have a bat mitzvah, for example - or a bar mitzvah, nobody would say that. And so I think what they're saying is that - how does this change your religious practice and your ability to express your faith in the way you deem appropriate. Do you feel that you somehow cannot now?

MCCOY: No, no not at all. Not because of the ruling. I think, matter of fact, even more so because of the ruling that we can. Because we're citizens that happen to go to churches and synagogues, and various place of religious worship. So we're citizens, first and foremost. My faith is my faith, I'm going to believe in my faith, however we're citizens that have a right to be in the dialogue of the United States of America - have a right to be in this dialogue.

And even where she says, you know, this is discriminatory - I don't think it is. It's an issue where people have opinion, and I think in their houses of faith and their places of worship, they believe that marriage should be defined that way, not just because it's something that there's a taboo, it's because what's best for children. We're getting to a place where the rule of law of what's best interest for adults is the best thing versus what really is the best for our children and our coming generations.

MARTIN: You - as I indicated that your organization, Maryland Family Alliance, I think you meant Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Is that what you meant, California lieutenant governor?

MCCOY: Well, he was the mayor of - in Prop 8 he was the mayor.

MARTIN: ...He was the mayor at the time, at the time....

MCCOY: ...At the time he...

MARTIN: ...I understand what you're saying.

MCCOY: Yeah, sorry about that.

MARTIN: OK, so your organization, Maryland Family Alliance, fought against legalizing same-sex marriage in that state but it's now the law of the state where you live.


MARTIN: What next? Do you have a sense of what you want to do next, or what your strategy is, or is your pulpit now the pulpit? You know, the bully pulpit is the one that is the one available to you and that's where you will continue to preach your own message. Or do you have some other legal avenues that you're pursuing?

MCCOY: I think it's both and, I think one, our pulpit is going to be our pulpit regardless. I think the, you know, churches have the right to speak out on many different issues. I think, you know, we're going to try and remove that Lyndon B. Johnson Amendment one day so we can still speak out even from a political perspective. However, going past that point, on the issue of marriage, I think we're going to still continue to talk about this issue.

Keep people engaged, help people understand what's at stake here and why they should be still establishing marriages. This doesn't erode any of our perspective about - guess what, we need to make sure - this debate might not even happen if we make sure that we build healthy marriages in our congregations. Make sure that that divorce rate is not sinking but it is - it actually is sinking and not increasing, excuse me.

And making sure that we're fortifying those marriages wherever we can. I think, us, at the same time, we're looking at legal aspects, we're looking at also being engaged in the public dialogue from an election standpoint. Who are the candidates that are supporting this, who are candidates who are not supporting this? And I think that's full right within our citizenship of what we can do.

MARTIN: Do you mind if I ask also, particularly about the racial aspect of this, if you don't mind my mentioning...

MCCOY: Oh, sure.

MARTIN: You're African-American...


MARTIN: And there has been some, you know, back-and-forth about whether there's a particular point of view about this among African-Americans. I know you also participated in a documentary about this that kind of explored this issue, you know.

I wanted to ask - but it's also true that public opinion has shifted among African-Americans. The polls show that, particularly since the president came out saying that he now supports same-sex marriage after previously supporting civil unions, that public opinion has shifted. And I'm just interested if you've seen that in your own congregation.

MCCOY: Well, it's funny, in Maryland we live in probably some of the most populated African-American places in the country, in terms of Prince George's County, Baltimore City. Got a lot of relationships with a lot of them - not all of them. But I will say this, the African-American population is not a monolith, but one thing that's very important to understand is that most of those African-Americans, or a large percentage of them, I should say, are still very engaged in this debate.

They do not buy into the issue where, simply because the NAACP started supporting it or even the president, quote unquote, evolved, most people look at it as the president made a prudent political decision. They don't believe that he necessarily supports it the way he does. It was a political decision. Now, that doesn't also erode their support for him or non-support for him, doesn't make a difference. It's - the issue with most of the ones that I've talked to said they wish he would've just came clean and said, hey, you know what, I'm going to support this issue, sorry if you don't like it.

But I think on the most, most of the issues, I think what you're looking at is the African-American population is very involved in this issue. They're concerned about their families. They're concerned about the degradation of the family. They're concerned about how the family breakdown is actually happening. They're concerned about their kids going to these schools.

I can give you stories of young women getting scholarships to schools, having to remove themselves from scholarships because of the pressure of this whole lifestyle issue, that you have to be involved in this in order - if you want to continue your scholarship in this sports arena. So it's a lot of issues out there and I think most of all, people are concerned about their families and making sure their families and their kids are doing well.

MARTIN: On the other side of it though, a lot of the traditional civil rights organizations who support same-sex marriage say that they have a particular moral duty to be on the right side of history, and this is what they believe is the right side of history. They say when the arc of history bends toward justice, they believe that this means this as well. And I just wondered, in the minute we have left, how do you respond to that?

MCCOY: Yeah, we appreciate their opinion. We don't think this is the right side of history issue. This is a history - history is very clear about what we need to support and I think one of the things is it's that the fabric of the family remains intact. And what we see is the degradation of the family over the last 30 years has been appalling.

And I think right now we need to look at what's best for our family, what's best for society and what's best for rule of law. In Prop 8 we see that rule of law is not even in play and this affects citizens. It doesn't make a difference whether you're straight, heterosexual, whatever else. Citizens alike are now at the place of saying you can't be protected. You don't have really a right to have standing or even have a say in some of these issues, and I think this is where we really need to be concerned and engaged.

MARTIN: Are you sad?

MCCOY: A bit, yeah. I'm a bit remorseful because I think the Supreme Court could have done a better job.

MARTIN: Reverend Derek McCoy is president of the Maryland Family Alliance, that's a group that opposes same-sex marriage. He was kind enough to join us in our Washington, D.C. studios. Reverend McCoy, thank you so much for speaking with us.

MCCOY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.