A capacity crowd of about 100 people filled Orlando's gay community center Wednesday night for a forum on the strained relations between the gay and minority communities.
Panel members discussed the influence that black and Hispanic pastors have in encouraging church members to oppose gay rights.
"When we go to the polls, we are told that [same-sex marriage] is going against God. Who wants to go against God?" asked Brei Taylor, a black lesbian pastor at Oasis Ministries.
In the Hispanic community, the prejudice against gays stems largely from the emphasis on the family and the belief that homosexuality defies the laws of nature, said Carlos Carbonell, co-chairman of diversity for Human Rights Campaign Orlando, a gay-rights organization.
"What we need our straight allies and people of faith to understand is our values are the same. There's one little difference — who we love," Carbonell said.
The forum — "Black and Latino LGBT: The Hidden Community" — was intended to engage minority gays and address the issues affecting those groups, including the spread of AIDS, said Randy Stephens, executive director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Center of Central Florida.
Stephens said a disconnect between the gay community and minority groups has resulted in a lack of support by blacks and Hispanics for gay rights. The gay community center has tried to attract black and Hispanic gays, but with little success, he said.
"We acknowledge we have an issue in the African-American community with gays and lesbians, particularly in the black churches," he said.
The forum was sponsored by the gay center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida, another gay-rights group. Eric Smaw, a philosophy professor at Rollins College, moderated the panel, which also included Bishop Richard Davis of the Church of Healing and Prosperity and Norma Crespo, president of Latina Lesbians of Central Florida.
Jeff Kunerth can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-5392.