Will Same-Sex Marriage Divide Obama and Black Voters?

For now their support for the president exceeds their opposition to gay-rights issues.

Posted: 05/10/2012 11:48 AM EDT
Protestors against same-sex marriage

Opposition to same-sex marriage is one of those so-called social values that Republicans like to boast they have in common with African-Americans. But, as polls show, it’s not quite that simple. And, like President Obama before his evolution on the issue was complete, Blacks are divided.

A Pew Center poll released in April showed that the African-American community is becoming more open to it, with a 49 percent disapproval rate in 2012 compared to 67 percent in a 2008 survey. On Tuesday, however, Black voters in North Carolina, a key battleground statevoted by two to one for an amendment that bans same-sex marriage and nullifies the rights of gay partners. Some critics have suggested that they and other Black voters around the country could make Obama pay for his support of the issue in November. He won 95 percent of the Black vote in North Carolina in 2008, but won the state by a very slim margin.

“It’s a very difficult issue. There are a lot of African-Americans in my district who feel very strongly in opposition to same-sex marriage and it’s very genuine and very deep,” North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield told BET.com. “I’m not sure that they’re willing to abandon the president on a single issue, but they are deeply concerned about it. But there’s another segment of my district that supports same-sex marriage.”

It is, in part, also a generational divide, as Obama suggested in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America. The amendment banning same-sex marriage failed miserably in the Durham County part of Butterfield’s district, home to Duke and North Carolina Central universities.

Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher told Politico that African-Americans have overwhelmingly supported Obama despite having an unemployment rate that is almost double the national rate and it’s unlikely they will abandon him because of his support for same-sex marriage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a nonissue,” Belcher said. “But on the list of things that keep me up at night worrying about Obama’s reelection, it’s really low on the list.”

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 (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


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