Commentary: Black Voters Not Fleeing Obama After Gay Marriage Announcement

A new article finds many African-Americans “agreeing to disagree” with president.

Posted: 05/14/2012 04:07 PM EDT

After Obama came out in support of gay marriage last week, finally silencing critics on the left who believed he owed his many gay supporters, there was some speculation that the president was going to lose support of Black voters. As columnist Keith Boykin argued, that’s certainly not the case:


I don't care what anybody says, Black people are not leaving Barack Obama. While some conservative groups secretly plot to divide Blacks against gays to defeat Obama, they fail to understand that Blacks are politically progressive and socially conservative. Just because some Blacks oppose same sex marriage doesn't mean they're going to vote Republican. 


Despite the popular media depiction of widespread Black homophobia, polls have long shown the African-American community to be more nuanced. African-Americans actually do support basic civil rights for gays and lesbians. As far back as 1994, Blacks were actually more supportive than whites (57% to 51%) of allowing gays to serve openly in the military. That's because Blacks tend to see issues of employment discrimination as political, not just social or moral.


In an article today in the Chicago Sun-Times, interviews with other Black Americans support Boykin’s theorizing. “We can agree to disagree on gay marriage,” one Black voter who disagrees with Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage told reporters Errin Haines and Jesse Washington, “and then I leave him alone.”


This willingness to “agree to disagree” should also be evidence against the belief of some conservatives that African-Americans are “zombies” for Obama. That is, they’ll agree with his opinions no matter what they are. That’s simply not true.


Black voters think for themselves just as all voters do. Many Black voters who don’t approve of gay marriage will probably still vote for Obama come November, but not because they’re brainwashed. It’s because they’re politically wise enough to know that, gay marriage or not, Obama has their best interests in mind far more than his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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