So much for the ridiculous media narrative that suggested Black voters would “abandon” President Barack Obama after his historic announcement supporting equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. The effect has been just the opposite. New polling shows Black support for marriage equality exceeds the population at-large.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll finds "strong" support for equal marriage from 53 percent of Americans. That’s a record high. And for the first time ever, the number of Americans who "strongly" support same-sex marriage (39 percent) outweighs the numbers who “strongly” oppose it (32 percent).
But the most dramatic findings were buried in the cross-tabs: “Support for gay marriage has reached a new high among African-Americans in ABC/Post polls, up from four in 10 in recent surveys to 59 percent now,” reports ABC News. Support among Blacks has increased by almost half overnight.
Obama’s “evolving” toward full marriage rights has had a “halo effect” across Black America. Successions of Black celebrities and thought leaders have co-signed the commander-in-chief’s marching orders. Jay-Z, Floyd Mayweather, Ice Cube and who’s who of hip-hop. Even Black conservatives, such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, are on the bandwagon.
And, most notably, the board of directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—the nation's oldest civil rights organization—came out for marriage equality over the weekend. The vote was a lopsided 62-2. That’s major because NAACP leadership has long been dominated by conservative pastors.
“President Obama serves as a moral barometer for the Black community,” National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks told EBONY. NBJC is the nation’s leading civil rights group for the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “By coming out in support of marriage equality, he has set a new standard. President Obama's affirmation of the freedom to marry helped Black folks come to terms within themselves and many are realizing that it's okay to evolve, too.”
It was foolish to entertain thoughts that Black voters would torpedo the re-election of our first Black president over same-sex marriage—or any single issue. Black people are just as multi-dimensional as anyone else, but a stubborn media narrative routinely suggests that Black folks are robotic, monolithic and homophobic, programmed by “powerful” “Black pastors” who are all anti-gay.
“I've been arguing for decades that Blacks are no more homophobic than Whites, even when other Black gays and lesbians thought I was crazy,” Keith Boykin told EBONY. Boykin is a political analyst for CNN, CNBC and MSNBC, as well as editor of the new anthology For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough. “Of course we have our own problems with homophobia, but there's no evidence that it's any worse in our community than in the White community.”
The truth is more nuanced. Blacks tend to be much more religious than the population at-large. But Black folks overwhelmingly support progressive political candidates, unlike White evangelicals, who overwhelmingly support conservative Republicans.
“The tension between our political progressivism and social conservatism seemed to exist for decades, but that's starting to change now thanks to President Obama,” added Boykin.
The meme has ignored the most important evidence: From South Central to the South Bronx, Blacks have overwhelmingly elected pro-gay politicians. The vast majority of the Congressional Black Caucus—such as Maxine Waters, Sheila Jackson-Lee, John Lewis and Alcee Hastings—have stellar records supporting LGBT rights. Only one Black congressman opposed extending hate crime and employment protections to gays. Only two Blacks in the New York legislature opposed equal marriage in 2009—and only ONE voted against it when it ultimately passed in 2011. Out of more than two dozen Black state legislators in Illinois, only ONE opposed civil unions in 2011. The list goes on and on.
Black voters in the Atlanta-area have even elected three Black openly gay or lesbian state legislators—and several more to local offices. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former New York Gov. David Paterson—until last year, the nation's other serving Black governors—"were arguably the most gay-friendly men to ever become governor", we reported in The Advocate.
There’s been no concrete evidence to prove that Blacks would abandon Obama over equal marriage. Instead, the President has opened a window of opportunity to discuss gay rights and marriage equality—and the Black community has responded overwhelmingly.
Rod McCullom is a multimedia journalist who has written and produced for ABC News and NBC, and whose writing has appeared in EBONY, The Advocate, Out.com and many others. Check out his award winning site Rod 2.0. Follow him on Twitter: @RodMcCullom.