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Posts Tagged ‘gay marriage’

Civics for Kids

Follow Tevin Johnson as he heads to D.C. to see what happens in a landmark ruling that will decided whether his two Dads can marry.

http://tevinstwodads.com/

Gay Marriage on way to SCOTUS?

Court Hearing Gay Marriage Arguments From 4 States
By AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press

A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments in six gay marriage fights from four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — in the biggest such session on the issue so far.

Three judges of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will consider arguments Wednesday that pit states’ rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs’ attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. Large demonstrations are expected outside the courthouse by both opponents and supporters.

Michigan’s and Kentucky’s cases stem from rulings striking down each state’s gay marriage bans. Ohio’s case deals only with the state’s recognition of out-of-state gay marriages, while Tennessee’s is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.

Attorneys on both sides in the Michigan and Ohio cases will go first and get a half-hour each to make their cases. Kentucky and Tennessee will follow, with 15 minutes for each side from both states.

Hundreds of gay marriage supporters rallied Tuesday at a park near Cincinnati’s riverfront on the eve of the court arguments.

The Rev. Mary Moore of Dayton, interim minister at the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church, says she has performed many services of “holy union” for same-sex couples, but they are not recognized by the state.

“It’s not fair that all of the marriages I perform aren’t allowed to be on an equal basis,” she said.

Mason Gersh, 19, of Louisville, Kentucky, said he hoped to be inside the courthouse to hear the legal arguments. “Equality for all is a civil right, and we all need to fight for that,” said Gersh, who is gay.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, gay marriage advocates have won more than 20 victories in federal courts. No decision has gone the other way in that time.

Constitutional law professors and court observers say the 6th Circuit could deliver the first victory to gay marriage opponents.

The three judges hearing the case are Jeffrey S. Sutton and Deborah L. Cook, both nominees of President George W. Bush, and Martha Craig Daughtrey, a pick of President Bill Clinton.

Sutton is considered the least predictable, shocking Republicans in 2011 when he became the deciding vote in a 6th Circuit ruling that upheld President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul.

If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, that would create a divide among federal appeals courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue for good in its 2015 session.

Two federal appeals courts already have ruled in favor of gay marriage, one in Denver in June and another in Richmond, Virginia, last week. On Tuesday, Utah appealed the ruling from the Denver-based court, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and uphold the state’s ban.

The 6th Circuit is the first of three federal appeals courts to hear arguments from multiple states in August and September.

The 7th Circuit in Chicago has similar arguments set for Aug. 26 for bans in Wisconsin and Indiana. The 9th Circuit in San Francisco is set to take up bans in Idaho and Nevada on Sept. 8.

Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Cornwell contributed to this report.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

From Fight to Fix on Obamacare

I just got a letter in my inbox the other day from someone calling on Missouri Republicans to dig in on Obamacare. But across the country, the dial is moving away from a fight to a fix. Some moderate Republicans who were against the concept of government run healthcare (and still are) are trying to tweak the law. The good news is there are lots of good ideas being floated by Republicans.  Unfortunately, we are not hearing enough about them. Instead of criticizing these pragmatic Republicans for being flip floppers, we should maybe take a look at the programs they’re proposing. I have Obamacare and I am not happy with it. I wanted patient centered catastrophic coverage connected to a health savings plan and to be able to choose my own doctors. I can’t even connect with the salesperson at my provider to try to switch.

It is interesting to me that the solution will lie somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, we have Presidential candidate Gov. Bobby Jindahl proposing a plan to cover 10 million of the 40 million Americans without insurance. On the other hand, only 8 million people have signed up. Maybe that is close to the number of people who wanted it and needed this safety net to help them get it. And maybe, if we can dial down the pre-primary partisanship, we will see there are moderate solutions in front of us. 

  • Monica Wehby, Oregon GOP Senate Candidate, Shifts Message On Obamacare Repeal
Posted: Updated: 

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WASHINGTON — Monica Wehby, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Oregon, has spent months positioning herself as the moderate, establishment candidate in the crowded GOP primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.

She’s struck a milder tone on issues such as abortion, immigration, and gay marriage, mindful of voters who have not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2002. But as the GOP moves to frame this year’s midterm elections around Obamacare, it’s not entirely clear where Wehby stands on the health care law.

In her first television ad, titled “It’s Not Brain Surgery,” Wehby draws upon her experience as a pediatric neurosurgeon to discuss “how devastating Obamacare is for Oregon families and patients.”

She also notes her call for a federal investigation into Cover Oregon, the state’s health care exchange. And in her approval of the message, Wehby states, “As your senator I will fight to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Watch the ad above.

Wehby released a radio ad Thursday stating she’s “the only candidate for Senate who has fought to stop” Obamacare.

Her views on Obamacare appear to have changed from a couple of months ago. During an interview with the Portland Business Journal in November, Wehby was specifically asked if she would repeal Obamacare if elected.

“That’s not politically viable at this point,” Wehby answered. “We can’t get it repealed with Obama in office. We have to focus on coming together with solutions.”

Wehby suggested creating a health care system where individuals could purchase insurance plans with pretax dollars across state lines. “Expand health savings accounts … Allow people who want it to have catastrophic policies,” she said of her proposals.

Wehby has also expressed support in the past for the Healthy Americans Act, legislation introduced years ago by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Wehby told The Oregonian in February that the bill, often referred to as “Wydencare,” was “a good plan.”

“It was a market-based approach,” Wehby said, adding that while she didn’t support every aspect of the plan, she and Wyden “think a lot alike in regards to health care.”

State Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend), Wehby’s main opponent in the GOP primary, has used such statements to attack her. “In principle, it’s 90 percent there with Obamacare,” he said of Wyden’s proposal.

Conger put out a radio ad last month tying Wehby to both the Wyden and Obama health care plans. “If it sounds like Obamacare, regulates like Obamacare, and costs like Obamacare, it is Monica Wehby’s Obamacare,” he said.

Wehby has pointed to some parts of Obamacare that she would like to keep, such as coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions and allowing parents to keep their children on their health plans until age 26.

Charlie Pearce, a spokesman for Wehby’s campaign, denied that Wehby was not in favor of repealing the health care law.

“Dr. Wehby has stated on many occasion that ideally she would vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with a patient centered, market based approach, similar to the replacement plan she outlined last November,” Pearce told The Huffington Post in an email. “Dr. Wehby has never stated she would not vote for repeal, only that it is not politically viable at this point, which is a statement of fact,” he added. “However, with a strong likelihood that Republicans take back the Senate this fall, there is a good chance that a replacement plan similar to Dr. Wehby’s will be enacted by Congress next year.”

Wehby isn’t the only Republican Senate candidate to send mixed messages on Obamacare repeal. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has focused on fixing the law rather than repealing it, but now touts his commitment to fighting Obamacare in an ad.

Given the number of GOP primaries pitting tea party candidates against establishment contenders, moderate Republicans face a complicated task. On one hand, they have to convince conservatives they staunchly oppose Obamacare. On the other, they must grapple with surging enrollment in the health care exchanges, which the president announced Thursday has surpassed 8 million.

 

Sibling Rivalry

Dispute Over Gay Marriage Erupts in Cheney Family

By JONATHAN MARTIN
FacebEd Reinke/Associated PressDick Cheney with his daughters, Mary Cheney, left, and Liz, at the Republican National Convention in 2000.

Updated, 10:09 p.m. | WASHINGTON — They were the towheaded sisters who tagged along on campaigns, polite and smiling, as their father rose through Wyoming and then Washington politics to become one of the most powerful men in the country.

“We were as close as sisters can be,” recalled Mary Cheney of her relationship with her older sister, Liz.

But now, a feud between the two has spilled into public view, involving social media, an angry same-sex spouse, a high-profile election and a father who feels uncomfortably caught between his two children.

The situation has deteriorated so much that the two sisters have not spoken since the summer, and the quarrel threatens to get in the way of something former Vice President Dick Cheney desperately wants — a United States Senate seat for Liz.

Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching “Fox News Sunday” — their usual weekend ritual. Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same-sex marriage, describing it as “just an area where we disagree,” referring to her sister. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney took to her Facebook page to blast back: “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”

But then Mary Cheney’s wife, Heather Poe, went further, touching on Liz Cheney’s relocation from Northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. (Liz Cheney is already battling accusations of carpetbagging in the race.)

“I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other,” Ms. Poe wrote on her Facebook page. “Yes, Liz,” she added, “in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.”

The feud reveals tensions not just within the family but in the Republican Party more broadly as it seeks to respond to both a changing America and an energized, fervently conservative base.

Indeed, while Liz Cheney seeks to make clear her opposition to same-sex marriage, her father more than a decade ago was able to embrace fairly moderate views on the subject, breaking publicly with President George W. Bush over Mr. Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He has gone further still since then, telling Barbara Walters in 2011, “I certainly don’t have any problem with” same-sex marriage.

But Ms. Cheney, in her bid to defeat Republican Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, is running to his right and seeking to capture conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts.

Matt Young/Associated PressLiz Cheney at a campaign appearance in July.

Liz Cheney on Sunday declined to directly address the remarks from her sister and sister-in-law, but said in an email: “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.”

People who have spoken to Liz Cheney say she is irritated that her sister is making their dispute public and believes it is hypocritical for Mary Cheney to take such a hard line now, given that she worked for the re-election of President Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage.

The relationship between the two sisters used to be quite different. The daughters drew especially close when their father ran as Mr. Bush’s running mate in 2000 and eventually became a figure of great controversy and enormous power as vice president. After Mr. Cheney left office in 2009, politically bruised and physically ailing, the sisters, who lived 15 minutes apart in Washington’s tony Northern Virginia suburbs, would join their parents for a standing Sunday dinner at Liz’s house in McLean each week, along with their families, including Ms. Poe.

Mary Cheney, 44, said in a phone interview Sunday that she presumed her sister shared her father’s views on marriage, and that view was reinforced because Liz Cheney “was always very supportive” of her relationship with Ms. Poe and the couple’s two children. She learned otherwise in August when Liz Cheney declared, shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy, that she was opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Mary Cheney said it is now “impossible” for the sisters to reconcile as long as Liz Cheney maintains that position.

“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary Cheney said, citing her 47-year-old sister’s slogan in her campaign against Mr. Enzi, 69. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”

Mary Cheney said it was her wife’s idea for the couple to take to Facebook to respond to Liz’s televised remarks. Ms. Poe seemed especially hurt that her sister-in-law had acted so embracing toward them in private, and then took this public position.

“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Ms. Poe wrote. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”

In the interview, Mary Cheney, who is a longtime political consultant, said she would continue to raise the matter. Reminded by a reporter that such criticism could complicate her sister’s Senate campaign, Mary Cheney offered a clipped answer reminiscent of her father’s terse style. “O.K.,” she said, before letting silence fill the air.

It is not the substance of the issue that could hurt Liz Cheney in Wyoming — her opponent also opposes same-sex marriage. But the ugly family drama and questions about what Liz Cheney truly believes could reinforce questions about her authenticity in a place where many voters have met their politicians in person and are already skeptical of an outsider like Ms. Cheney, who has lived elsewhere for much of her life. Ms. Cheney’s first ad, which she released last week, was devoted entirely to emphasizing her family’s Wyoming roots.

Wyoming, a sprawling but sparsely populated state, has rarely seen such high-profile primaries, and this one has already featured an ugly Cheney family episode: After former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, a longtime friend of the family who served with Mr. Cheney in the state’s congressional delegation, fretted to The New York Times this summer about how Liz Cheney’s challenge of Mr. Enzi would be divisive among the state’s Republicans, Lynne Cheney, the sisters’ mother and Mr. Cheney’s wife, confronted him at a charity event and told him to “just shut up” — three times, Mr. Simpson claimed. When Lynne Cheney later said that the exchange never happened, Mr. Simpson called her denial “a damn baldfaced lie.”

The former vice president is active and visible in his daughter’s Senate bid and this Wednesday, he will join her in Denver for a fund-raiser to benefit her campaign. Early polls show Liz Cheney trailing Mr. Enzi, but her fund-raising since declaring her candidacy has been robust.

As for Mary Cheney, she said that when she gets together with her parents these days, they know which subjects not to bring up. “They come over for dinner and we don’t talk about Liz or the race,” she said. “There is so much more to talk about.”

The Cheneys have tried to be “as neutral as they can,” added Mary Cheney, who just returned from a pheasant hunting trip with her father in South Dakota. “My parents are stuck in an awful position.”

As for the coming holidays, Mary Cheney said that her parents will come to her and Ms. Poe’s Northern Virginia home for Thanksgiving and that she assumed her older sister would be in Wyoming.

At Christmas, the whole Cheney clan will head to the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming, where Liz Cheney now lives. But Mary Cheney said of her sister, “I will not be seeing her.”

A version of this article appears in print on 11/18/2013, on page A1 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Cheney Sisters In Public Feud Over Marriage.

Time Lapse Politics / Christine Doyle

If you’re a fan of photography, you know the time lapse technique involves setting up a camera, often to record something like a sunset, minute by minute.  Once edited, these shots show a magical progression of light and color but shooting one is excruciating. That nuanced change can only be seen when sped up. It isn’t perceptible to the naked eye as it us unfolding.

There is a wave of post-1970’s feminism percolating in this country right now.  From the “Lean In” movement to the fact that Hillary Clinton will likely run for President, a modern woman’s movement is impacting the workplace, our social mores and if the Democrats get lucky, our politics.

In terms of public opinion, there is no doubt that the dial has moved on gay marriage and assault weapons. I think most Americans would prefer to keep abortion personal and not political. But, when you look at who is running and who is serving, and the issues that still divide us, it’s clear we are only at the very beginning of an excruciatingly slow time lapse in women’s politics.

What you can’t see in this time lapse moment in politics is the Republican women doing their part behind the scenes to “Lean In in their own communities. They’re starting PACs, websites and schools as a way to impact their communities in positive ways. But these Republican women are waiting for their party and the system to catch up with them. Until that happens, Moderate and Independent women who vote for Republican men, will continue to be accused of  supporting a party that doesn’t get them. 

Do the Democrats still have a lock on women’s votes? And is it because of social issues? According to the Center for American Women and Politics, of the 20 women in the U.S. Senate, only 4 are Republicans. Of the 78 women in the House of Representatives, only 19 are Republicans. The prospects of getting elected a Governor are better for female Republican candidates. Right now 4 out of five female Governors are Republican. Of the state legislatures, of the 1,788 women serving, female Democrat legislators outnumber Republican women legislators nearly 2 to 1.

I am not going to criticize Hillary Clinton or Claire McCaskill who is her front woman, not only here in Missouri, but in key states like Iowa where the Clintons have never been very popular. According to the New York Times, a battalion of women is now forming in Iowa and encouraging Hillary to run. Senator Claire McCaskill, who I voted for once because of her support of stem cell research but couldn’t vote for a second time because I disagreed with her on Obamacare, is Hillary Clinton’s biggest supporter. Again, I am not going to criticize her. Because McCaskill can see women are engaging.

The question I would ask is what is the most effective way to speed up this painfully slow moment in politics? Is it for more Republican women to run as Non-Partisans? Only 10 of the 1,788 state legislators currently serving are NPs. Is it too late or too early in this progression to build up a moderate Republican female voice? It might have been too late for Olympia Snowe to run for President and unfortunately, it might be too soon for the Republicans to fast track the other moderate from Maine, Susan Collins, who is in favor of universal access on healthcare, but is also green, for school choice, pro-choice on abortion and pro-gay?

One thing I have to agree with Sen. McCaskill on is that she is right that this is a historic moment. Or at least the beginning of one.

 

How do children turn out who are raised by Gay parents?

Sandhya Somashekhar has an interesting article in the New York Times that talks about the impact being raised by two parents of the same gender can have on kids.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is widely considered the swing vote, called the topic “uncharted waters.” Conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wryly asked, “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on Proposition 8, the law voters passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in California. Listen to the complete arguments in the case known as Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Indeed, gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. It has been legal only since 2004, when Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Eight more states and the District have legalized same-sex nuptials since, but it has been banned in 35 states.

Researchers have been delving into the effects of same-sex parenting only since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the studies involve relatively small samples because of the rarity of such families.

Still, there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being.

“I can tell you we’re never going to get the perfect science, but what you have right now is good-enough science,” said Benjamin Siegel, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “The data we have right now are good enough to know what’s good for kids.”

Siegel co-wrote a report issued by theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics last week when it came out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The group looked at more than 80 studies, books and articles conducted over 30 years and concluded that legalizing same-sex marriage would strengthen families and benefit children.

The best study, Siegel said, is the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which began in 1986 with 154 lesbian mothers who conceived children through artificial insemination. A recent look at 78 offspring found that the children did fine — better, even, than children in a similar study involving more diverse families.

Many opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the academy’s conclusions are premature. They point to some recent studies, including one from Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor from the University of Texas at Austin. Regnerus, who could not be reached for this article, found that adults who reported being raised by a person who had a homosexual experience were more likely to be on welfare or experience sexual abuse.

Regnerus has been the subject of intense criticism from mainstream researchers and pro-gay-marriage activists. But opponents of same-sex marriage say his work should provide a note of caution on an issue that has yet to be studied in adequate depth.

“What the social science makes clear, and it has for several decades, is that children tend to do best when they’re raised by their married biological parents,” said Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies for the conservative Heritage Foundation. “In the case of same-sex households, there is not yet evidence that [children] are going to be the same. There’s every reason to believe that different family structures will have different outcomes.”

Susan Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who studies family structures, said it is true that decades of research show that children turn out slightly better when they are raised by their biological parents, compared with those reared by single parents, or in “step” households.

But children raised in committed, same-sex couple-led households do not appear to do statistically worse, she said.

“One thing we’re finding that’s very important for children is stability in their family life,” Brown said. “To the extent that marriage is a vehicle through which children can achieve stability, it only follows that marriage is something that would be beneficial to children.”

 

 
 
 

Will uncertainty among blacks and women lead to low turnout?

I just read an article from the Associated Press that claims some social conservatives in the African American community may be wavering about whether to vote for President Barack Obama. The question is if they don’t like Obama because he is pro-gay marriage and they can’t relate to Romney, reportedly because he is a Mormon, what are they going to do on Election Day. What a lot of voters do when they don’t like either candidate is to not vote at all. Women voters are wavering, too. It’s my opinion that many women voters mistakenly believe the Democrats are more female friendly and that the Republicans are anti-women because of the steady drumbeat over women’s issues like contraception beginning late last year. But at the same time, they know in their hearts that things really haven’t gone in the direction they hoped under Obama.

Associated Press

Some black clergy, seeing no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day, a worrisome message in a tight race.

The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.

There’s no question which candidate is expected to win the black vote. In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of black voters and is likely to get an overwhelming majority again. But the nation’s first African-American president can’t afford to lose any voters from his base.

“When President Obama made the public statement on gay marriage, I think it put a question in our minds as to what direction he’s taking the nation,” said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the predominantly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York. Bernard, whose endorsement is much sought-after in New York and beyond, voted for Obama in 2008. He said he’s unsure how he’ll vote this year.

It’s unclear just how widespread the sentiment is that African-American Christians would be better off not voting at all. Many pastors have said that despite their misgivings about the candidates, blacks have fought too hard for the vote to ever stay away from the polls.

Black church leaders have launched get-out-the-vote efforts on a wide range of issues, including the proliferation of state voter identification laws, which critics say discriminate against minorities. Last Easter Sunday, a month before Obama’s gay marriage announcement, the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of Baltimore formed the Empowerment Network, a national coalition of about 30 denominations working to register congregants and provide them with background on health care, the economy, education and other policy issues.

Yet, Bryant last month told The Washington Informer, an African-American newsweekly, “This is the first time in black church history that I’m aware of that black pastors have encouraged their parishioners not to vote.” Bryant, who opposes gay marriage, said the president’s position on marriage is “at the heart” of the problem.

Bryant was traveling and could not be reached for additional comment, his spokeswoman said.

The circumstances of the 2012 campaign have led to complex conversations about faith, politics and voting.

The Rev. George Nelson Jr., senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, participated in a conference call with other African-American pastors the day after Obama’s announcement during which the ministers resolved to oppose gay marriage. Nelson said Obama’s statement had caused a “storm” in the African-American community.

Still, he said “I would never vote for a man like Romney,” because Nelson has been taught in the Southern Baptist Convention that Mormonism is a cult.

As recently as the 2008 GOP primaries, the SBC’s Baptist Press ran articles calling the LDS church a cult. This year, however, prominent Southern Baptists have discouraged use of the term when addressing theological differences with Mormonism. Many Southern Baptist leaders have emphasized there are no religious obstacles to voting for a Mormon.

Nelson planned to vote and has told others to do the same. He declined to say which candidate he would support.

“Because of those that made sacrifices in days gone by and some greater than others with their lives. It would be totally foolish for me to mention staying away from the polls,” he said in an email exchange.

Romney has pledged to uphold conservative positions on social issues, including opposing abortion and gay marriage. But many black pastors worry about his Mormon beliefs. Christians generally do not see Mormonism as part of historic Christianity, although Mormons do.

African-Americans generally still view the church as racist. When LDS leaders lifted the ban on blacks in the priesthood in 1978, church authorities never said why. The Mormon community has grown more diverse, and the church has repeatedly condemned racism. However, while most Christian denominations have publicly repented for past discrimination, Latter-day Saints never formally apologized.

Bernard is among the traditional Christians who voted for Obama in 2008 and are now undecided because of the president’s support for gay marriage. But Bernard is also troubled by Romney’s faith.

“To say you have a value for human life and exclude African-American human life, that’s problematic,” Bernard said, about the priesthood ban. “How can I judge the degree to which candidate Romney is going to allow his Mormonism to influence his policies? I don’t know. I can’t.”

Romney said in a 2007 speech that LDS authorities would have no influence on his policies as president. He also said he wept when he learned that the priesthood ban had been abolished because he was anxious for it to be lifted. But that has done little to change perceptions among African-Americans and others.

“Obama was supposed to answer for the things that Rev. Wright said,” said the Rev. Floyd James of the Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, at a recent meeting of the historically black National Baptist Convention. “Yet here’s a guy (Romney) who was a leader in his own church that has that kind of history, and he isn’t held to some kind of account? I have a problem with that.”

Obama broke in 2008 with his longtime Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, after videos of his incendiary sermons were broadcast.

Many Democrats and Republicans have argued that Romney’s faith should be off limits. The Rev. Derrick Harkins, faith outreach director for the Democratic National Committee, travels around the country speaking to African-American pastors and other clergy. He said concerns over gay marriage have receded as other issues take precedence, and no pastors have raised Mormonism in their conversations with him about the two candidates.

“There’s just no space in this campaign for casting aspersions on anyone’s faith,” Harkins said in a phone interview. “It’s not morally upright. It’s not ethically appropriate.”

The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, who leads the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., said he is telling his congregants, “Let’s not make the election a decision about someone’s salvation.” Last spring, when it became clear that Romney would be the GOP nominee, congregants starting asking about Mormonism, so Wesley organized a class on the faith. He said congregants ultimately decided that “we could not put Mormons under the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.”

But Wesley said, “I don’t want Gov. Romney to have to defend the Mormon church, the way President Obama had to defend Jeremiah Wright.” Wesley, whose congregation has more than 5,000 members, said he will be voting for Obama.

The Rev. Lin Hill, an associate pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., said in a phone interview that he plans to travel with other local pastors to about 50 congregations over two weeks to hold discussions and distribute voter guides that will include a contrast between historic Christianity and Mormonism, and educate congregants about the former priesthood ban.

Hill is active in his local Democratic Party but said he’s acting independently of the campaign. He said Mormon theology becomes relevant when congregants argue that they can’t vote for Obama because, as a Christian, he should have opposed gay marriage.

“If you’re going to take a tenet of a religion and let that dissuade you from voting, then we have to,” discuss Mormon doctrine, Hill said. “We want folks to have a balanced view of both parties, but we can’t do that without the facts.”

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a prominent Southern Baptist and black preacher, describes himself as a political independent who didn’t support Obama in 2008 because of his position on social issues. McKissic said Obama’s support for same-gender marriage “betrayed the Bible and the black church.” Around the same time, McKissic was researching Mormonism for a sermon and decided to propose a resolution to the annual Southern Baptist Convention that would have condemned Mormon “racist teachings.”

McKissic’s Mormon resolution failed.

On Election Day, McKissic said, “I plan to go fishing.”

____