Bishop Harry Jackson, the point man for the Religious Right’s anti-gay outreach to African Americans, hosted a rally in downtown Washington D.C. across the street from the District building where the D.C. Council meets. Jackson and his outraged entourage repeatedly threatened political retribution against Mayor Adrian Fenty and openly gay Councilmember David Catania for the Council’s preliminary vote to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed legally in other states.
Jackson had a much smaller crowd than the thousands he had hoped for. As the rally began, there were well under 100 people; by the end there may have been close to 200. They were an enthusiastic bunch, shouting “the Devil is a liar” and other encouragement to the speakers. Jackson made excuses about how little time they had to mobilize, but promised to pack the Council chambers on May 5 for the next vote. Jackson said his group would be distributing inserts for churches to include in their bulletins this Sunday.
Jackson was joined at the podium by representatives of the Missionary Baptist pastors’ network as well as several Hispanic pastor group representatives, as well as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who made a few unremarkable remarks. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson sent a letter supporting Jackson and attacking the members of the D.C. Council. To this D.C. resident, the most disappointing moment was former Mayor and current Councilmember Marion Barry leading the crowd in chants against marriage equality (though he noted that he supports civil unions).
For those who have watched Jackson or read People For the American Way Foundation’s new report on him, there was expected rhetoric, such as Jackson criticizing gay rights supporters for “usurping” and “hijacking” the civil rights movement. He of course had no problem using iconic civil rights songs (Lift Every Voice and Sing, We Shall Overcome) as part of his effort to deny equality to a group of their fellow Americans.
There was also some edgier anti-gay rhetoric. Jackson compared marriage between gay couples to marriage between close relatives, or between “a man and a three-year old.” One of the final speakers was a Rev. Daniels, who Jackson recruited for the rally from Florida. He was fixated on gay sex acts, repeatedly urging people to “explain the act” because it would turn people’s stomachs and turn them against marriage equality.
Jackson ended by sending part of the crowd across the street to stand on the sidewalks in front of the District Building and lift their hands toward it while he prayed, “Washington, D.C., we call you into alignment with the word of God.”
We’ll get some video highlights up later today.
UPDATE: Here is the video of Marion Barry declaring the anti-gay pastors “the moral leaders of this community” and himself “a politician who’s moral”: