“I didn’t have to ‘come out’ black,” offered comic Wanda Sykes Monday during a speech at the NAACP annual convention.

It’s a remark that has probably brought chuckles from many audiences. But this is a convention at which many people have ties to African-American churches that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Sykes is a hero to gays and lesbians, and her audiences are usually friendly. But here at the NAACP convention, there were no guarantees.

Just down the hall was a lunch for religious leaders whose churches largely oppose same-sex marriage.  Sykes legally married her partner before Californians passed Proposition 8.

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But just across the convention hall, two Los Angeles church pastors stood firm.

“Our denomination doesn’t allow clergy to participate in marrying same-sex couples,” said Reverend Henry Masters of Holman United Methodist Church.

“At our church, we believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” said the Rev.  Harlan Jones, of Phillips Temple CME Church.

If nothing else, Monday’s panel showed a willingness to talk about an issue that once stayed firmly in the closet. But there were still a lot of empty seats.


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