Suffering, defined by the “Webster’s New World Dictionary,” is the “bearing of pain or distress.”
But not all suffering is created equal, according to Temple professor and Reverend Clarence James.
In a March 23 rally in Atlanta, Ga., James said “when the homosexual compares himself to the black community, he doesn’t know what suffering is.”
Steve Seltz, co-chair of Lambda Gay Alliance, commented on James’s opinion.
“It made me feel like our suffering is trivial compared to other groups,” he said. “It’s like a horse race to see who has been hurt the most.”
James teaches in the African American Studies Department and is an associate minister at the Vine Baptist Church on 56th and Girard. He said the suffering of the black community “operates on a completely different plane.” Whereas being black is a natural condition and therefore cannot be escaped, he said, homosexuality is unnatural.
“Black people don’t have a closet to come in and out of,” he said, adding that homosexuality is a choice, a state of mind and a function of behavior.
“I don’t know why someone would choose to be discriminated against,” Seltz said. “If homosexuality were a choice, people would opt to escape it because no one wants to feel that kind of pain. It is not a choice.”
James not only discussed the dissimilarities between the two movements, he and other pastors at the rally also outlined their beliefs on marriage, which is defined as a union between a man and a woman. James opposed gay marriages and said no one has the right to create a “sub kind of marriage,” in which same sex marriages would also exist.
“We operate on the basis of morality,” James said, “and homosexuality is immoral.”
Seltz, who has been in a relationship for about a year, said he would enjoy being married in the future.
“It’s odd that I consider [marriage] a luxury,” he said. “I don’t want anything special. I just want to be able to get married. I want to be treated the same way the majority is treated.”
The 21-year-old communications major wondered why all groups striving for equal rights are not working together.
“This is an interlocking movement,” Seltz said. “A black rights’ movement has women, so it immediately includes women’s rights. And what if there are gays involved? We should all be working together.”
“Homosexuals are not a civil rights group,” James said. “They are a special interest group. They have suffered because they have chosen to suffer.”
James said homosexuality primarily originates from a dysfunction of the family with the relationship between the mother and the father and the child. It can also come from children who are sexually abused, he said.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of family it is,” Seltz said. “A man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman and single parents can do an equally good or bad job at raising children. People act as if there would be no more children if gays could marry.”
When asked what he thought about certain groups being angry at the possible constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, James said: “The truth usually makes people who are in denial angry, because it exposes their untruth.”
Nina M. Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.