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Controversy simmering over MLK breakfast speaker

Posted: 6:33 PM, Jan 07, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-07 18:33:40-05
A controversy is brewing in St. Petersburg over the mayor office’s refusal to give the key to the city to the MLK Leadership Awards keynote speaker.
 
Some say it's disrespectful, while others say it's the right thing to do. 
 
The mayor's office points to Rev. Jamal Bryant's teachings about the LGBT community. Bryant has said numerous times that the gay lifestyle is a sin. City administrators in St. Petersburg told ABC Action News that Bryant's words are divisive and the city is working to bring the community together, no matter a person's background.
 
A number of local pastors in this community, however, believe Bryant is simply speaking the truth straight from the good book.
 
Despite what some in the gay community call divisive statements, Bryant was invited by the National Council of Negro Women to be the keynote speaker at the 30th annual MLK Awards breakfast in St. Pete. Gay rights groups have called that decision into question.
 
Robert Danielson, the liaison between the LGBT community and the mayor's office, believes Bryant's words are far from Christian.
 
"It's the values and the goals of this administration to be inclusive for everybody. The fact that he has said what he has said and alienated some of our community members doesn't help matters," Danielson told ABC Action News.
 
Rev. Clarence Williams of Mt. Zion AME Church is one of a group of pastors supporting Bryant. They're pushing the mayor to honor Bryant with a key to the city. 
 
"God uses very pointed words like shall die and abomination. Those are words that don't leave much room for interpretation. They're pretty straight forward," Williams said.
 
The group of pastors is pushing the mayor to honor Bryant with a key to the city. The mayor's office told ABC Action News that will not be happening.
 
"Pastor Bryant's remarks go against the grain for the vision of our city, and they certainly go against some of the remarks and sentiments of Dr. King himself," said communications director Ben Kirby.
 
"We have to remember that the Bible is very controversial and to seek somebody that's not divisive, who would that be? I think depending on what side of the fence you're on, Mickey Mouse can be divisive," Rev. Williams told ABC Action News.
 
We're told the 1,200-ticket event at the Coliseum is nearly sold out. Despite this controversy, there is not expected be a change in the keynote speaker.
 
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is expected to be in attendance for the event as well. As far as a key to the city, the mayor's office told ABC Action News regardless of Rev. Bryant's words they wouldn't have given him any sort of honor anyway.
 
It's dedicated to those who've made an impact in the St. Petersburg community or around the country. They simply don't believe pastor Bryant deserves that honor.