Assigned to cover both this year's political conventions, ESSENCE News Editor Wendy L. Wilson has been on the scene at the RNC in Tampa, speaking with African Americans in attendance to find out exactly why they aren't backing President Obama in 2012. Here, she catches up with the Rev. William Owens, founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors, who explains his reasons for seeking Republicans' support to defend "marriage between a man and a woman." (Next week, Wilson will report from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina)
ESSENCE: Why are you attending the RNC, and what’s the message you want to send here?
REV. WILLIAM OWENS: We are here but we will also be at the Democratic National Convention next week. We want it to be known that the African American community is for marriage between a man and a woman. I’m not dealing with any other issue here because as the Black family deteriorates, none of the other issues will matter. The President has gone down the wrong road. He’s in the White House because of the Blacks who gave their lives during the civil rights movement. If it wasn’t for them he wouldn’t be there, and yet he caters to less than three percent of the population only because they can give him that Hollywood money. He is taking the Black vote for granted.
ESSENCE: Do you think President Obama was pressured into taking a stand on gay marriage?
REV. OWENS: No, he wasn’t pressured; he was bought. Hollywood has given him millions. He didn’t know that there would be a group of Black pastors who would stand up for what’s right and not be afraid of him.
ESSENCE: But isn’t the issue of gay marriage also an issue of civil rights?
REV. OWENS: I was in the civil rights movement. I know what we marched for, and we didn’t march for same-sex marriage. We marched because Black people suffered. We wanted better jobs. We wanted to be able to go to any restaurant or hotel. Homosexuals don’t have that issue. They make more money than anyone else, so how can you compare that with the civil rights movement?
ESSENCE: Will Obama lose votes from the Black community because of this?
REV. OWENS: Of course, but you also know that a lot of Blacks will agree with the President because they are afraid of their peers or think they will be looked down on. I also blame the Black ministers who side with him because they are responsible for the sheep. I grew up in the Church of God and Christ where you honor the political leadership in place, and this is the first time I have ever gone against leadership. But on this one I could not be silent.
ESSENCE: Are you saying, then, that you believe Mitt Romney to be the better candidate?
REV. OWENS: I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m an Independent and I vote my values. I do not tell people how to vote. I’m just putting the facts out there that this President made a bad decision for America and for the African American community. Get the facts, make your own decision and let the chips fall where they may.
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