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Obama’s new view on gays doesn’t faze many black voters

Published: Sat, May 12, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press


Like many black Americans, Dorsey Jackson does not believe in gay marriage, but he wasn’t disillusioned when Barack Obama became the first president to support it. The windows of his suburban Philadelphia barbershop display an “Obama 2012” placard and another that reads “We’ve Got His Back.”

If Obama needs to endorse same-sex marriage to be re-elected, said Jackson, so be it: “Look, man — by any means necessary.”

With that phrase popularized by the black radical Malcolm X, Jackson rebutted those who say Obama’s new stand will weaken the massive black support he needs to win re-election in November. Black voters and especially black churches have long opposed gay marriage. But the 40-year-old barber and other African-Americans interviewed in politically key states say their support for Obama remains unshaken.

Some questioned whether he really believes what he says about gay rights or merely took that stand to help defeat Republican Mitt Romney — suggesting African-Americans view the first black president less as an icon than as a straight-up politician who still feels like family.

“Obama is human,” said Leon Givens of Charlotte, N.C. “I don’t have him on a pedestal.”

On Tuesday, Givens voted in favor of banning gay marriage in North Carolina. Many black precincts voted 2-1 for the ballot measure, which passed easily.

The next day, Givens heard Obama tell the nation in a TV interview: “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

But this fall, Givens plans to register Obama voters and drive senior citizens to the polls. Givens, a retired human-resources manager, said he suspects the president’s pronouncement was “more a political thing than his true feelings.” But he’s not dwelling on it.

“We can agree to disagree on gay marriage,” Givens said of the president, “and then I leave him alone.”

Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by a mere 14,000 votes, thanks largely to a huge black turnout. Nationally, 95 percent of black voters chose Obama, and 2 million more black people voted than in 2004. No one doubts Obama will carry the black vote this year, but whether he can again turn out such large numbers could prove crucial to his chances.

African-Americans historically have been more hostile to gays and lesbians than other racial and ethnic groups.

Only 39 percent of African-Americans favor gay marriage, compared with 47 percent of white Americans, according to a Pew poll conducted this April. Forty-nine percent of blacks and 43 percent of whites are opposed.

But blacks — like other Americans — have become more supportive of gay marriage in recent years. Black support has risen dramatically since 2008, when only 26 percent of black people favored gay marriage and 63 percent were opposed, according to Pew.

Much of the opposition stems from religious beliefs. Church is the backbone of black America — 22 percent of black people attend religious services more than once per week, compared with 11 percent of whites, according to recent AP/GfK polls.

Mel Brown, a 65-year-old project manager in Philadelphia, says same-sex marriage “is between them and their God. The God I serve does not agree with that.”

Does Obama’s announcement change Brown’s support for the president? “Absolutely not. Because Scripture says we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Black voters, led by black churches, have played key roles in blocking same-sex marriage in states such as California, where 2008 exit polls indicated about 70 percent black opposition, and Maryland, where black Democrats were part of a statehouse coalition that stalled a gay-marriage bill in 2011. (It passed this year but may face a referendum in November.)

Part of the tension between gays and blacks comes from comparisons of their struggles. Some cast gay marriage as the last frontier of equal rights for all; others counter that minority status comes more from how you look than what you do.

Many black pastors have been reluctant to address same-sex marriage from the pulpit; the topic remains taboo in much of their community. Now, “with the president taking such a clear stand on the issue, and his being such a beloved figure and historic symbol for African-Americans, I think it will advance the conversation,” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.


1greene(167 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Blacks hate gays, everybody knows this is true.

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2Photoman(1246 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Givens obviously voted for our current president for only one reason.

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3AnotherAverageCitizen(1193 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Years from now Obama will be hailed a hero for taking his current stance on gays and marriage. Times are continueing to change. Many years ago blacks and whites didin't marry, and now we think nothing of it. Many years ago giving birth out of wedlock was considered a disgrace, now it is a common practice.

I don't agree with gays and marriage, but we must move along with the times.

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4peacelover(838 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Can we please put this subject to rest and concentrate on some of the more important issues that actually pertain to running the country????

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5thinkthentalk(310 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

exactly peace. Heres one issue. JP Morgan blows 2 billion. And they STILL want "degregulation" and to repeal Dodd/Frank.
But the republicants still focus on crap like this to get votes....

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6greene(167 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

thinkthentalk, U should change your name to, "spell check then

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7walter_sobchak(2674 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

"Many years ago giving birth out of wedlock was considered a disgrace, now it is a common practice."

You make a valid point that begs the question: Is America a better place now or many years ago? Shame has a place and purpose in society as does righteous indignation.

However, blacks supporting Obama unconditionally is perectly acceptable. But, when a white person is against Obama for valid reasons, we must obviously be racists.

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8gripmadlock(16 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Obama your views on gays doesn't faze me. You have my vote!

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