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It's No Surprise Blacks Backed Gay Marriage Ban

New America Media, News Analysis, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Nov 06, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- The painful truth is that Proposition 8 would have gone down to flaming defeat if blacks hadnt backed it in droves.

Proposition 8 was the ballot initiative that defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman and embeds that in the California State Constitution. Just one month before the election most polls showed that a majority of Californians rejected the measure. But then something happened. A slew of Yes on 8 signs and stickers popped up overnight on lawns in my neighborhood, the predominantly black Crenshaw area near South Los Angeles.

The week before that a well-heeled core of preachers who head fundamentalist leaning, mega and medium-sized black churches held a rally and then took to their pulpits and bible thumped their congregations to pass the initiative. It worked. Associated Press exit polls found that seven in 10 blacks voted in favor of the proposition, while Latinos marginally supported, Asians mostly voted against the measure and whites were split.

The cruel irony is that the holy passion that propelled black voters to storm the polls in near record numbers to vote for Barack Obama tipped the scales in favor of Proposition 8. That wasnt the only Obama irony. Prop 8 backers flooded mailboxes in mostly black neighborhoods with a mailer that featured a stern faced Obama and his horribly out of context quote saying that he opposed gay marriage.

Whether the preachers got a generous infusion of cash for their services touting Proposition 8 is anybodys guess. The money trail in these shadowy campaigns is always hard if not impossible to track down. But even if a penny didnt change hands between the Prop 8 campaign and the ministers it wouldnt have changed things. The preachers would still have scripture saber rattled Prop 8. Even if the ministers hadnt said a mumbling word one way or the other about gay marriage, a significant number maybe even the majority of blacks would still have voted for it.

The first big warning sign that the gay marriage issue would inflame, polarize, and even energize blacks within and without the black pulpit came in 1997 when the Green Bay Packers perennial all-pro defensive end Reggie White, an ordained minister, touched off a firestorm of protest from gay groups with a rambling, hour- long talk to the Wisconsin legislature in which he took a huge swipe at gay rights and gay marriage. He later barnstormed through several Mid-Western cities pushing the anti-gay gospel at pro-family rallies.

Before his untimely death in 2005, White apologized for his anti-gay remarks, but he was unrepentant in his view about homosexuality.

He was a conservative black minister and homosexuality still violated his biblical conception of the proper roles for men and women. In defying the canons of political correctness, White became the first celebrity black evangelical to say publicly what many black religious leaders said and believed privately. Few blacks joined in the loud chorus that condemned his remarks.

A year before Whites outburst, a Pew Poll measured black attitudes toward gay marriage and found that blacks by an overwhelming margin opposed it.

A CNN poll eight years later showed that anti-gay attitudes among blacks had not changed much since then. At a tightly packed press conference in October 2003, five of Michigans top black prelates publicly called on the state legislature to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The ballot measure passed in November, and more than fifty percent of blacks backed it.

The same year the conservative Virginia-based Alliance for Marriage corralled a handful of top black preachers to plop their name on the Alliances letterhead and tout the Alliances anti-gay rights agenda.

At the NAACP convention in July 2004, there was some talk of taking a delegate vote to put the organization firmly on record backing gay rights. It didnt get far. Reverend Julius Caesar Hope, the head of the NAACPs religious affairs department, warned that a resolution to back gay marriage would make some serious problems. I would think the membership would be overwhelmingly against it, based on our tradition in the black community.

Seven months before the November 2004 presidential election, a legion of black churchmen staged a rally on Capitol Hill, We believed that we are faced with a challenge, Bishop Paul Morton thundered to the crowd, God versus same-sex marriage and we will not compromise in that area. A day later an AME convention forbade its ministers from performing same-sex marriages.

In nearly every state since then where gay marriage bans have been enacted, conservative church-influenced blacks have been the driving force backing the bans. The top heavy backing then that blacks gave Proposition 8 was hardly a surprise. A shame, yes, but no surprise.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Related Articles:

Gays in the Age of Obama - It's Their Party and They'll Cry if They Want to

Substantial Number of Asian Gays in California Are Parents

Ours Is a Love Story -- The Case Against Banning Gay Marriage

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