Commentary: Ohio Blacks Have About-Face After Obama’s Announcement

Like their North Carolinian counterparts, many African-Americans in the precious swing state of Ohio are now in support of gay marriage after Obama said he is.

Posted: 07/03/2012 05:51 PM EDT
President Barack Obama hosts a reception in honor of national Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in the White House June 15, 2012.

President Barack Obama hosts a reception in honor of national Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in the White House June 15, 2012. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


When Barack Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage in early May, there were some who theorized that the president’s pronouncement would divide him from the Black community, which is highly religious and, in some pockets, highly homophobic.

“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 in the immediate wake of Obama’s statement. “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’s been more than a month now since Obama first voiced his support for gay marriage, and the verdict is in: Not only are African-Americans not abandoning the president for his pro-gay views. Many Blacks are actually reversing their anti-gay marriage stances.

It started in North Carolina, where voters passed an amendment to ban gay marriage the day before Obama declared that the supports the practice. Only a few weeks later, many Black voters who were initially against gay marriage had changed their tune. As told you back then:

According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, after Obama’s gay-marriage admission, the percentage of North Carolina African-Americans who “believe same-sex couples should either be allowed to marry or form civil unions,” jumped from 44 to 55, a full 11 points. That would not have been enough of a jump to change the gay-marriage ban if Obama had spoke sooner — 58 percent of North Carolinians still support it — but it’s interesting to see the power the president holds over African-American opinion.

Today, Public Policy Polling has found that Black voters in another swing state, Ohio, are also following the president’s lead on gay marriage. Reports Sabrina Siddiqui in the Huffington Post:

Among the black voters in Ohio polled, 42 percent said they supported the legalization of same-sex marriage while 35 percent said they opposed it. This represents a change of 54 percentage points since October when a poll of black voters showed 63 percent against it and 16 percent in support. A full 76 percent of those surveyed in the new poll support same-sex couples being allowed to either marry or form civil unions.

What this means is that naysayers who thought the president may have destroyed his credibility with anti-gay Black voters are officially in the wrong. Some Blacks obviously still hang on the president’s every word, and some always will. What only time will tell is whether this respect African-Americans clearly have for Obama’s opinion will translate to Black votes come November. African-Americans came out in record numbers for the president in 2008, and though many clearly still appreciate him, whether they’re going to vote for him again — or just support him from the couch when pollsters come knocking — remains to be seen.

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

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