(CNSNews.com) - As homosexual advocacy groups increasingly model their push for greater acceptance on the rhetoric and tactics of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, some black groups are beginning to take exception.
The comparison between the two movements and the "rights" associated with them can be misleading, said David Almasi, director for Project 21, a group of conservative black leaders.
"Homosexuality is behavior. It's not something you're born with," Almasi said.
The homosexual movement identifies itself with a number of sympathetic causes, including the Holocaust remembrance and the civil rights struggle, to advance its effort to gain acceptance. But any success the homosexual groups are having is attributable not to the legitimacy of their cause, but to a growing "culture of diversity and victimology," Almasi said.
"They're asking, 'If we can make gains in civil rights for different races, why not go for sexual orientation?'" he said.
Pastor D.L. Foster, founder of Witness! - an Atlanta, Ga.-based fellowship of 11 African American ministries that reach out primarily to black people struggling with homosexuality - said he is offended by the comparison.
"It's not so much the gay rights groups that I'm upset with, it's with so-called black leaders who have taken up this lie for the gay community and are pushing it for them."
Dr. John Diggs, a physician with the Massachusetts Physicians Resource Council, also said homosexual groups are trying to take advantage of the success of the civil rights movement.
"Part of the whole gay agenda is to cast homosexuals in some sort of sympathetic light, so if it's been recognized worldwide that African Americans conquered a great evil of slavery and the Jim Crow laws through the civil rights movement, they would gladly tag onto that because they're exploiting the moral capital that we've earned," he said.
Blacks "can't go to a therapist and say, 'Make me white,'" said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, a group that works in partnership with the Witness ministries. "It doesn't work that way."
Many black political and religious leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) - not to mention black Democratic presidential candidates Rev. Al Sharpton and former Ill. U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun - actively canvass homosexual groups.
Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King and founder of the King Center in Atlanta, Ga., caused a controversy when she put the prestige of the slain civil rights leader's name behind homosexual organizations.
"For many years now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for gay and lesbian people," King said at the 25th anniversary of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a homosexual advocacy group. "I've always felt that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a free society."
Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual pressure group in the GOP, said homosexual groups had more friends than enemies within the African American community.
"There's a lot of common ground and a lot of common sentiment about all of us being valuable parts of the American family," he said.
Guerriero rejected the notion that homosexuality is something that can be changed. "We believe it's something that is biological, that folks are born with," he said.
"It is pretty consistent among gay and lesbian Americans that we didn't wake up some day and choose it like we choose where we're going to have dinner tonight, and most of modern-day psychiatric studies suggest that folks don't choose their sexual orientation, but that they're born with it," Guerriero said.
David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual advocacy group, said people should not differentiate between "rights."
"There's no such thing as gay rights versus civil rights. All people should be treated equally under the law," Smith said. "Gay individuals are not treated equally under the law, as you can be fired in most jurisdictions in this country just for being gay.
"Gay people do not have civil rights, and we are working to change that, and we're not comparing ourselves to any other group," he said.
Smith also took issue with the argument that people are not born homosexual.
"There's a growing body of evidence to indicate that there's a biological basis for homosexuality. Gay people are not defined by what they do, they're defined by who they are," he said.
If homosexual groups can convince people that homosexuality is innate - like race and ethnicity - they stand a better chance of gaining recognition as a protected minority class under federal law, analysts said. This would lead, among other things, to the lifting of the military's ban on service by open homosexuals and the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
While experts see the issue of what determines homosexuality as extremely complex, most agree that homosexual attraction, like many other strong attractions, likely includes both biological and environmental influences, researchers from the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality report.
However, scientific attempts to demonstrate that homosexual attraction is biologically determined have failed, they said.
Moreover, Dr. Robert Spitzer, a prominent psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University and an advocate of the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual of psychiatric disorders, recently reversed his stance.
After studying whether individuals can change, he concluded: "I'm convinced from the people I have interviewed, that for many of them, they have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual," he said. "I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained."
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