Minnesota's black voters have come under increasing pressure from opponents and supporters of a ballot amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune
On Monday, national NAACP President Ben Jealous was in the state to urge that the measure be rejected, saying "the notion that this state would create an amendment to its constitution to revoke a human right should send a shudder down the spine of all of us."
The black population in Minnesota is small but is considered crucial to whether the amendment succeeds or fails, according to the Star Tribune.
In Maryland and other states where same-sex marriage initiatives are on the ballot, black residents have also become targets of campaigns to either ban or codify the unions by constitutional amendment. The ads being run both for and against the measures are virtually the same as the ones that have popped up in recent weeks in Minnesota.
In billboard ads around Minneapolis and St. Paul, for example, a young black bride and groom are pictured along with a plea to vote for the ban.
Rev. Jerry McAfee, president of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention, told the Star Tribune that he plans to "direct my people" to support the ban by going to the polls and voting for the amendment.
But opponents of the measure are trying to convince black voters to reject the ban as a civil rights stand. Jealous told Minnesotans the ban would shift the use of constitutions from expanding the rights of citizens to restricting rights.
But despite the push by the NAACP and other opponents, the Star Tribune reported that many black church leaders view the issue as more of a spiritual issue than anything else.
"It is not a political issue anymore. It's a spiritual issue in which we do believe and uphold what the word of God tells us," Bishop Richard Howell, pastor at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis, told the newspaper.
"Certainly, we're not homophobic by any means. We understand the great divide here is Scripture and not politics," he added.
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