Boston - Conservative blacks in the United States are objecting to recent comparisons between the gay marriage and the 1960s civil rights movement, which fought segregation against blacks, arguing that sexual orientation is a choice.
Links between the two struggles have been made since the state's highest court ruled last week that the Massachusetts constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry. The court cited landmark laws that struck bans on interracial marriage.
But the Reverend Talbert Swan II said the two struggles are not similar because blacks were lynched, denied property rights and declared inhuman.
"Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle," he said. "I could not choose the colour of my skin. For me to ride down the street and get profiled just because of my skin colour is something a homosexual will never go through."
A poll released by the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press on November 18, the day of the ruling, indicated 60 percent of blacks opposed gay marriage.
When asked if they favoured legal agreements with many of the same rights as marriage, 51 percent of blacks were opposed.
Michael Adams, an attorney with the gay advocacy legal group Lambda Legal, said polls show blacks support gays in other areas, such as workplace equality. Strong conservative religious values that predominate in the black community may explain the division, he said.
He added there are key differences in the two movements, including slavery and forced segregation, which gays never experienced. But the groups have seen similar discrimination based on deeply held prejudices, he said.
Mychal Massie, a conservative columnist and member of Project 21, a Washington political alliance of conservative blacks, said the comparisons weren't valid.
"It is an outrage to align something so offensive as this with the struggle of a fallen man, a great man such as Martin Luther King," said Massie, who writes for WorldNetDaily.com.
"The whole thing bespeaks of something much deeper and more insidious than we just want to get married," he said. "They want to change the entire social order."
Alvin Williams, president and chif executive officer of the conservative, Washington Black America's Political Action Committee, said the gay marriage issue looks like an equal rights issue at first, but becomes a "special rights" issue after closer examination because it's about behavior, not ethnicity.
Not everyone objects to the comparison, however. In Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate, black candidates Carol Moseley Braun and the Reverend Al Sharpton declared support for gay marriage. Both compared it to past discrimination against blacks.
The Reverend William Sinkford, a black man who is president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, said the struggle for gay civil rights is this generation's great challenge, just as equality for blacks was the last generation's.
"I think there's very little to be gained by trying to create a hierarchy of oppression," Sinkford said. - Sapa-AP