WASHINGTON — Friends warned civil rights leader Rev. Walter Fauntroy that homosexual activists would not appreciate his support for a constitutional amendment, to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

But little did he expect his home phone to ring off the hook from angry homosexual activists, at the prompting of an e-mail from a homosexual leader that contained Rev. Fauntroy's phone number.

Thann Young, who serves with Rev. Fauntroy on the advisory board for the Alliance for Marriage, which proposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, said encouraging activists to call Rev. Fauntroy's home phone number was “outside the bounds” of appropriate discourse.

“Of all groups, they should understand what they did to Fauntroy was like a hate crime,” said Young, who works at the Congress of National Black Churches and is a pastor at Agape Church in Olney, Md. “It contradicts a lot of what they say about justice and peace. It speaks volumes about what they are about as a group.”

The controversy began immediately before Alliance for Marriage's press conference July 12, at which a diverse coalition unveiled the Federal Marriage Amendment.

One of its members was Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia. “I commend all the men and women of various races, faiths and political parties who have committed themselves to the task of promoting the sacred dignity and value of marriage through this amendment,” said Cardinal Bevilacqua.

On July 11, Rick Rosendall, vice-president of the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, a Washington, D.C., homosexual organization, sent a message critical of Rev. Fauntroy to his organization's e-mail list.

In the e-mail, Rosendall wrote, “Fauntroy wraps himself in democracy and the civil rights movement while seeking to disenfranchise a group of Americans. Truly obscene.”

Home Phone Number

He then adds, “Call Rev. Fauntroy at home at [number deleted by the Register] and register your objection to his alliance with anti-gay bigots … Tell him how offensive it is that he — a civil rights veteran, of all people — would deny freedoms to others that he himself enjoys.”

Rev. Fauntroy has impeccable credentials as a civil rights leader. In 1960 he was appointed by Dr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., as director of the Washington bureau of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and he served as the D.C. coordinator of the historic March on Washington of 1963 and as coordinator of the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965.

In 1971, he was elected as the first delegate for the District of Columbia to the U.S. House and he served as leader of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1981-83.

He is currently pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, and is also president of the National Black Leadership Roundtable.

In an interview, Rosendall defended his decision to include Rev. Fauntroy's home phone number.

“I had other numbers for him, but after testing them, the only line that I could confirm was Fauntroy's was the home phone, so that's the one I used,” Rosendall said. “Exposing the man to the views of the former constituents he is trying to disadvantage seems reasonable to me.”

When asked if Fauntroy would consider it wrong to have his home phone number publicly disseminated, Rosendall replied, “As to whether Fauntroy might regard it as inappropriate, I am much more interested in the question of why it is appropriate to scapegoat gay people for the problems in straight people's marriages. Fauntroy is a public figure, and must be held accountable for his actions and advocacy, particularly when he pursues such an extreme measure as changing the Constitution to resolve a social dispute.”

Rosendall insisted that he did not intend for activists to harass Rev. Fauntroy. “I urged our members to communicate with him, not tie up his line or harass him,” he said.

Syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher was unimpressed with Rosendall's answer.

“Rick told me that he didn't tell people to harass him, just to engage in civil conversations,” Gallagher said. “It might not be harassment in the legal sense. But in the moral sense, if you send a man's home phone number over the Internet, it is moral harassment.”

Matt Daniels, executive director for Alliance for Marriage, expressed dismay that the important discussion on the Federal Marriage Amendment was being misused to justify personal attacks.

‘Hateful Language’

“Gay activists claim to be the victims of hate. But in this case, who used hateful language and employed harassment tactics against a civil rights leader and his family?” Daniels said.

He added that Catholics should be concerned about the attacks on Rev. Fauntroy.

“The African American Church and the Catholic community have both been subject to discrimination and persecution at different times in the history of our nation,” said Daniels. “In this case, we have every reason to make common cause on behalf of the legal status of marriage, and against those who would seek to suppress and silence our efforts to express our deeply held beliefs.”

Rev. Fauntroy did not return calls for comment. But Young expressed anger over Rosendall's comparison between the struggle by blacks for civil rights and the campaign by homosexual activists to win recognition of same-sex “marriage.”

Said Young, “when you look at how many African Americans were killed, how families were destroyed, how people were forced to come to this country, how my ancestors were beaten — there's just no comparison.”

Young added that homosexuals undermine their own arguments by attacking people like Rev. Fauntroy. Said Young, “They're complaining about harassment and hate when they are using the same tactics. To me, it's really kind of ridiculous for them to attack him. I listened carefully at the [July 12] press conference. At no time did he represent any intolerance for gays.”

Joshua Mercer writes from Washington, D.C.