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State Senator: Ministers' Vow Of Backlash For Gay Marriage Vote An 'Empty Threat'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A coalition of West Side ministers was urging state lawmakers to reject legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois, but at least one lawmaker said the ministers' threat of political backlash against lawmakers who vote for gay marriage was nothing but an "empty threat."

WBBM Newsradio's John Cody reports Rev. Joseph Kyles, pastor of The Promise Church of Chicago, said the idea of gay marriage is a moral issue, not a civil rights issue.

"There is no way you can tell me that people in Mississippi who were chased down by dogs, who were sprayed with fire hoses, who were hung from trees, have the same passion for two men to be married, or two women. You cannot tell me that," he said.

Black Ministers Oppose Gay Marriage

Rev. Leon Miller said he loves sinners but hates sin; loves gays but totally opposes gay marriage.

"That is abomination before God. Another thing to realize is that we think about, as reading the word of God, Sodom and Gomorrah. We don't want a Sodom and Gomorrah. God is going to get sick of this."

Miller, pastor of Mt. Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, was hoping politicians in Springfield hear his words as the General Assembly weighs same-sex marriage legislation.

"We hope that you act on a saved mind. Let your conscience be your guide," he said.

But at least one state senator said the ministers' warning of political backlash against lawmakers who vote to support gay marriage is an "empty threat."

Raoul: Ministers Making 'Empty Threat'

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) said support for same-sex marriage didn't hurt President Barack Obama's bid for re-election last year.

"Likewise, this state just a couple of years ago we approved civil unions, and it didn't have any negative impact," Raoul said. "I don't think it will have any negative impact in this case."

State lawmakers approved civil unions for same sex couples in 2011.

Rev. Kenneth Giles, pastor of 2nd Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, said same-sex marriage is not a legal issue.

"The civil rights movement taught us that, although man makes a law, if it is against God's law, we have to stand for what God says," he said. "And we learned that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. So we're standing on this, regardless of what they do."

Giles, Miller, Kyles and three other ministers said churches and ministerial coalitions represent enough voters that Springfield politicians should heed their warning, and vote against gay marriage in Illinois.

They said they would oppose the re-election of any politician who votes to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.

But Raoul said other prominent African-Americans – including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, former state Senate President Emil Jones, Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp, and former Urban League CEO James Compton – have issued their own statements supporting gay marriage. Raoul suggested that lineup carries at least as much weight as the ministers who spoke out Monday.

Cardinal Francis George also has urged Catholic voters in Illinois to contact their lawmakers and urge them to oppose gay marriage.

In addition, a separate group of more than 200 Illinois pastors and rabbis have sent lawmakers a letter calling for approval of same-sex marriage.

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