Fumo: Slavery would be "almost unanimous"

May 1, 2008 8:27:53 AM PDT
A state senator told a black pastor testifying at a committee hearing that, given the chance to cast secret ballots, his fellow legislators would vote to legalize slavery.

Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, D-Philadelphia, made the comments Tuesday during a hearing on a Republican-sponsored bill to amend the state Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriages and civil unions, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on its Web site Wednesday.

"What you are advocating here is that we take away the rights of a minority. And I don't think that's right," Fumo, a staunch defender of gay rights, told the witness, Gilbert Coleman Jr., senior pastor of Freedom Christian Bible Fellowship in Philadelphia.

He added, "If we introduced a bill on slavery, it might pass. That doesn't make it right."

Coleman, who was testifying in favor of the measure, responded: "I doubt that sir."

"Oh, don't bet on it in this General Assembly," Fumo countered. "I know some people up here, especially on a secret ballot, it would be almost unanimous."

Bishop Gilbert Coleman Junior told Action News, he was very surprised of his exchange with Senator Vince Fumo became so heated.

Coleman is Senior Pastor at Freedom Christian Bible Fellowship in West Philadelphia. He was in Harrisburg to testify in favor of the bill amending the state constitution to outlaw same sex marriages and civil unions.

Senator Fumo is a staunch defender of gay rights.

The two men traded words, even before fumo brought up slavery.

Fumo is in his final months in office after a 30-year career as a state senator. He faces trial in September on 139 counts of federal corruption.

Coleman said he saw Fumo as an angry man under a great deal of pressure, who must now apologize to his fellow legislators.

"I have friends there in the Senate who I know are not like that and for him to say that he would get a unanimous vote is something that I think is a bit much," Coleman said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee could vote on the gay marriage measure as early as Monday.

In a statement Fumo said, "i wanted people at the hearing to face the facts that denying human rights to any group including homosexuals at any point in our history, including in 2008, is wrong."