Commentary: How Obama Changed Gay-Marriage Beliefs in North Carolina

The number of African-Americans who support gay marriage in the state has grown since Obama made his big announcement.

Posted: 05/18/2012 06:03 PM EDT

President Obama addresses crowd at the University of Chapel Hill on April 24, 2012, North Carolina. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

 

One week ago, when North Carolina held an election to decide if it would put a same-sex marriage ban into its constitution, Blacks voted two-to-one in favor of the ban. It was a sad day for many Americans, who watched a state that had before instituted a now-dead ban on interracial marriages once again codify bigotry in its most precious document.

 

Interestingly, just one day after North Carolina passed its gay marriage ban, President Barack Obama gave an interview to ABC News’ Robin Roberts in which he finally admitted to supporting gay marriage. Instantaneously, celebrities like Janet Jackson and Jay-Z were backing up Obama, saying that they, too, agreed gay marriage should be legal. But while it was nice to see celebrities support the president, many wondered if Obama’s statements would have any impact on what Black North Carolinians thought about same-sex marriage. Today, the numbers are in, and we know the answer to that question.

 

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.

 

This from Ken Walsh in US News & World Report:

 

"I can see this happening in my own life," says a prominent African-American who is working for Obama. "I'm a Baptist, but my own views are now evolving" toward an acceptance of same-sex marriage. This is partly because of Obama's argument that legalizing gay marriage is a modern-day civil rights issue.

 

On the one hand, it’s nice to see that African-Americans are really looking up to Obama as a thought leader who can help them reach conclusions they might otherwise not have come to. On the other, it’s a bit disheartening to see that Obama can wave his hands and get thousands of people to fall in line with his beliefs.

 

If those African-Americans in North Carolina let Obama’s words guide them into serious self-reflection about whether their beliefs were right or wrong, more power to them. But if they simply abandoned thoughts they held dear because Obama said they should, that’s a problem, and it’s nothing to celebrate.

 

 

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

 

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