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Ministers Denounce Comparison Of Dr. King, Gay Rights

HILLSIDE, Ill. (WBBM/CBS) -- Several dozen clergy members from around the Chicago area are denouncing a new law that grants civil unions to same-sex couples in Illinois.

As WBBM Newsradio 780's Regine Schlesinger reports, the ministers object to analogies drawn by gay rights supporters to the civil rights movement.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Regine Schlesinger reports


The Rev. Al Cleveland, the pastor of a church in Bensenville, is opposed to homosexuality on religious grounds. He finds any analogy between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement offensive.

"When we apply words to things that are as sacred as a movement to free a people – African-Americans – from the stigma of the color of their skin, and then apply that to what I call a lifestyle choice that wants to be made into a law, I find that very disheartening," Cleveland said.

Cleveland said to equate the gay rights movement with the work of Dr. King perverts a noble cause.

Cleveland is one of several African-American clergy members who will appear at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Freedom Baptist Church in west suburban Hillside.

The event is being organized by the Illinois Family Institute, a conservative religious group that focuses in large part on opposition to homosexuality.

The group said in a news release that comparing the gay rights movement to the civil rights movement is the equivalent of using "the heroic battle to end racial discrimination as a Trojan Horse to eradicate moral judgments about homosexual conduct. All civilized persons -- particularly African-Americans -- should be outraged."

"Homosexualist organizations have one goal that reigns supreme over all others: the eradication of the true moral belief that homosexual acts are profoundly immoral," the news release continues, "and they are willing to exploit the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in order to achieve their morally dubious and intellectually vacuous goal."

The Illinois Family Institute was among several religious groups that campaigned against the bill that legalized civil unions in Illinois last year. The group has also been criticized by organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center for its shrill statements about homosexuality.

The civil unions provision gives same-sex couples all 648 legal benefits of marriage. These include the right to visit a sick partner in the hospital and make decisions about their medical care, and property inheritance rights. But the bill does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The bill passed the state House on Nov. 30, and went on to pass the state Senate the following day, after 90 minutes of impassioned debate. reports that before her death, Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, speculated that her husband would have supported gay rights if he had survived.

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