The nation's largest Protestant denomination is attempting to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional white Southern base. At the same time, leaders said they feel it is important to take a public stand on their opposition to same-sex marriage.
The resolution acknowledges that gays and lesbians sometimes experience "unique struggles" but says that they lack the "distinguishing features of classes entitled to special protections."
"It is regrettable that homosexual rights activists and those who are promoting the recognition of 'same-sex marriage' have misappropriated the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement," the resolution states.
Another resolution passed Wednesday is intended to protect religious liberty. It includes a call for the U.S. Justice Department to cease efforts to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and for the Obama administration to ensure that military personnel and chaplains can freely express their religious convictions about homosexuality.
The Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, was one of the authors of the gay marriage resolution.
"It's important to sound the alarm again, because the culture is changing," he said in an interview after the vote.
McKissic, who is black, said it was "an unfair comparison" for gays to equate same-sex marriage with civil rights because there is not incontrovertible scientific evidence that homosexuality is an innate characteristic, like skin color.
"They're equating their sin with my skin," he said.
David W. Key Sr., director of Baptist studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, said that as gays and lesbians become accepted in the larger American society, the Southern Baptist Convention is trying to separate itself from some of the more hateful rhetoric while still staying true to its beliefs.
The resolution includes a statement that the SBC stands against "any form or gay-bashing, whether disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric, or hate-incited actions."
But even with those disclaimers, Key said statements like this could hurt evangelism because they are likely to be objectionable to many people who are "not necessarily affirming, but also not rejecting" of gay rights issues.