Other than that, Johnson said the real shift will have to come from the members. He suggests that church leaders in the closet be honest about their orientations with their flocks to start this shift.
“It is time for them – those on the deacon board, in the choir, and every where else – to start letting these pastors know,” Johnson said. The popularity of beloved church figures can fuel change as members seek protection for their respected leaders. “When the congregation starts changing and saying, ‘we want you to start speaking up for every individual who has been denied any kind of rights at all. We want you to start speaking out,’ then that puts the pressure on the pastors.”
Johnson does not think the Supreme Court will decide anyway. He predicts that they will throw the decision back to the lower courts to avoid the pressure, a notion supported by some of the justice’s comments.
Will marriage equality prevail?
Kelly Brown Douglas, professor of religion at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD is encouraged that marriage equality will prevail. She is hopeful that the courts will see marriage equality as a civil rights and civil liberties issue. But, she said one never knows with the Supreme Court.
Douglas equates this situation to that of Loving v. Virginia – a famous case in which the ban on interracial marriage was struck down. This, and the Prop 8 case, for example, are similarly civil rights cases to her.
“I do see this as a piece of the same history,” she told theGrio. “Not the same history in terms of race but in terms of civil rights issues.”
Yet, she does agree with Johnson and Franklin. Regardless of whether the Supreme Court votes to strike down DOMA and Prop 8, she does not believe black religious opponents of same-sex marriage will be moved. They will probably feel vindicated to further promote their beliefs.
Thus, “the rhetoric in pulpits on Sunday morning will be heightened either way,” Douglas said.
Black church at a crossroads
For Douglas, the black church is reneging on its mission. While she is not optimistic about the Supreme Court decision, she is also keeping the faith that the black church will someday soon see LGBTQ sexualities as being as valid as any other sexuality, and divine.
Johnson anticipates a more heated reaction — especially from the evangelical community. He sees many different denominations engaging in intense debate if in fact the Supreme Court takes gay marriage national.
“And there will certainly be a core group of African American pastors in the discussion,” Johnson said. “The debate and reaction will probably intensify.”