Gay Marriage, African-Americans and Obama

A consistent Beltway media assumption following the President’s comments of personal support for marriage equality is that he risks black votes.

Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza, for example, wrote that the reason he thought why the President was hesitant was because of a fear that black voters would shun him.

However, there is no evidence for this anticipated electoral impact among black voters. In fact, there’s strong evidence for zero impact.

The media has cited a supposed 2-1 against vote by African Americans in North Carolina for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. However, there appears to be no evidence for this figure, even though it has been widely quoted.

Following the vote on Proposition 8 in California in 2008, which also banned gay marriage, much was made of the supposed gulf in voting between blacks and other ethnic groups. Black support was widely reported as 70%, however, this has subsequently been revised down to 58% — only 9% greater than white support. Black opponents of Prop 8, infuriated by comments from people like Dan Savage blaming African Americans for the passage of Prop 8, pointed to an absence of efforts by Prop 8 opponents within the black community — a lesson which has evidently been learned by those working for marriage equality in Maryland.

Nationally, opposition to marriage equality is now only 55% among African Americans, and like with every other group, it is dropping.

No matter how African Americans vote in such referanda though, speaking to Lawrence O’Donell on MSNBC, Keith Boykin, BET TV host and a former White House aide to President Clinton, pointed out that no African American official has ever lost African American support because of their views on marriage equality.

Said Boykin, just like with other black elected officials, there is “no way the African American community is going to abandon the President” in November.

The standard Beltway assumption also seems to forget the the Obama administration has already taken actions in support of lesbian and gay couples such as refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts. The religious right, which includes many African Americans, did not somehow miss the news, yet Obama’s polling numbers among African Americans has not gone down.

There was actually polling done after the change of policy on DOMA — it showed absolutely no erosion of support among African Americans, and no one planning to stay home in November, another part of Beltway-received wisdom.

Writing for Politic365, Jason Johnson, professor of Political Science at Hiram College, points out that:

“Any minority voter who is that driven by a social issue like gay marriage wouldn’t vote for any Democrat, let alone Obama.”

Aisha Moodie-Mills, an advisor for CAP’s LGBT Progress team, tells The Grio:

“It’s really quite ridiculous to believe that black folks would stay home and not vote for the first black president over gay marriage. It’s just ludicrous! No megachurch pastor, as bigoted as he may be, has the power to persuade a whole congregation of black folks to turn against this president.”

Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post spoke with Rev. Al Sharpton, who pointed out that he publicly supported same-sex marriage during his 2004 campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for president.

“I was preaching in black churches and didn’t have one cancellation because of it,” Sharpton said, even though there were ministers and parishioners who disagreed with him.

What the Beltway is buying into, says Sam Fulwood III, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute, is a conservative divide-and-conquer strategy — one which was revealed in part by the disclosure of internal strategy documents earlier this year from the National Organisation for Marriage (NOM). He writes:

The conservative strategy is to drive a wedge between African-American voters and gay and lesbian voters, making it appear that the president must choose between favoring one group and offending the other.

But it won’t work. Black voters will be enthusiastic and fully supportive of the president. Gay and lesbian voters, too. Why am I so sure? Well, it’s the nature of politics. At some points along the way, even the most favored politician will make decisions or behave in ways that even ardent supporters dislike.

Writes Zerlina Maxwell:

When it becomes clear that Obama’s change in position doesn’t erode black support, it’s possible the myth of black homophobia being higher than other groups diminishes. When it all shakes out, it’s possible we all end up on the side of equality and justice standing with our president.

Related stories:

‘Like Lincoln and Emancipation’: Obama’s Gay Marriage Evolution

BREAKING: Obama Embraces Marriage Equality

Same Sex Marriage & Pres. Obama: Cultural Waves, or Ripple?

Photo credit: laverrue


Paul canning
Paul canning5 years ago


You're wrong about MLK. One of his closest friends was Bayard Rustin, who was gay. MLK defended him when others wanted him removed. Rustin organised the March on Washington. Coretta Scott King was a strong gay rights supporters, as are all those still alive who worked with MLK.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Black folks, minorities, African Americans. Can you people hear yourselves? Always ready and willing to put black people in a box. I see myself as a person first, as we ALL do. I try not to define myself by my colour or sex first. No one does! including black white Indian or Chinese. And try not to define others as such. But it is evident that a lot of people do. It is extremely divisive and counterproductive. And people who you would consider as being liberal because of their views regarding Sexuality, in that they champion the rights of individuals not to be judged by their sex or inclination, sometimes hold an opposite view in regards to race.

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D5 years ago

The US President has got moxie. Fair play to him for trying to push through positive reforms.

John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

Thank you for the article...

Johnice R.
Johnice R5 years ago

Lucy H. Are you insane?

Johnice R.
Johnice R5 years ago

Alice B. is smoking some strange shrooms, making statements based upon what data? Medically speaking, the statistics for a child born with the genetic hormone imbalance assigning gender is 1:10 world wide...not withstanding race. That is: one in ten children born every day, month, year, regardless of racial identity, National origin, or religious belief have an imbalance in genetic hormones. Some people continue to state personal opinions as facts and thus, irritate the rational thinkers among us. Just saying...!

Homosexuality is not a disease (a dropped designation in the DSM) it is as natural a human condition as blue eyes, brown hair, or pale skin, flat feet, club foot, short stature or average height, foolish people say really dumb things and for what cause...I just wish they would stop. Who needs that level of negative attention, seeing your name mentioned in a thread is rewarding to you? How? If so, find another way to draw attention to yourself...we all will feel so much better, as will you!

Lloyd H5 years ago

Lucy H, evidently you can not read, Alice B. stated the fact that whites are a minority population world wide she did not say whites were a minority in the LGBT community.
And there is some risk. There is still a portion of the Black Community that considers 'Civil Rights' theirs and only theirs. Perhaps in part because MLK was bigoted against LGBT persons he certainly had no problem firing at least one Black Gay man just because he was Gay.
And there are the Bible Humping Homophobic Misters, Preachers et alia who are Legion in their Theocracy of Biblical Ignorance. One can not stress enough that any Biblical Justification for the opposition to Marriage Equality and LGBT Civil Rights must in and of it self also justify Slavery, particularly as their are more Old and New Testament FOR SLAVERY THAN AGAINST MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND LGBT PERSONS COMBINED.

Lucy H.
Lucy E5 years ago

Alice B - the L/G/B/T/Q community is a subset of the population. I'd love to see your proof that whites are a minority in the L/G/B/T/Q community.

Let's not re-write history here. In the early decades of gay pride, there were civil rights workers in the African American community who were outraged by the comparison between gay rights and civil rights for people of color. They were very vocal about it and openly worked against gay rights. Please note that I said "were". It meant that the African American members of the L/G/B/T/Q had to work to overcome prejudice in the L/G/B/T/Q community and homophobia in their homes. It seems like they may have had more success in their homes than in the L/G/B/T/Q community. Racism in the L/G/B/T/Q community needs to die just like homophobia every where else needs to die.

Keevin Shultz
Keevin Shultz5 years ago

And it's about time that people acknowledge that all three exist.

Alice B.
Alice B5 years ago

White people are the minority in this world; ergo - there are *more* LGBTQ people of color than LGBTQ white people. Religious repression is very strong re: natural human sexuality - and the religious 'leaders' ranting and raving against us LGBTQ people are all too well represented amongst all races/colors/ethnicities in our nation and throughout the world. However, *all* families have somebody in the family circle who is LGBTQ - out or mostly not, worldwide. I know - I'm the bi one in my immediate family circle, our for decades, and now age 64. Religious 'leaders' who preach bigotry are simply proving the excellent old Irish adage: "Empty vessels make the most noise."