While African Americans are generally less supportive of marriage equality as a whole, a growing number of black leaders and community members have come to embrace the issue since President Obama endorsed the freedom to marry last week.
As Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) explained during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, “Dr. [Martin Luther] King took a simple position. When people would ask him about interracial marriage, he would simply say races don’t fall in love and get married, individuals fall in love and get married.” “So if two men or two women want to fall in love and get married it’s their business,” he added:
LEWIS: My position is very, very simple. That I fought too long and too hard against discrimination based on race and color, not to stand up and fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation. If you’re going to provide civil rights and equality for everybody, you cannot draw a line, you cannot build a wall. We must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being whether they are gay or straight.
African Americans are agreeing with Lewis in greater numbers:
— 54 percent of African Americans support Obama’s position on same-sex marriage: A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that since Obama declared his support, “54 percent express a favorable view of his position on the issue,” compared to “just 41 percent of African-Americans supported gay marriage in ABC/Post polls in mid-2011 and early 2012.”
— 11 point shift in support for marriage among African Americans in NC: A Public Policy Polling survey found “a noticeable shift in the attitudes of African Americans in North Carolina toward rights for gay couples in the wake of President Obama’s announcement last week that he supports gay marriage. Our final poll before the primary last week found only 20% of black voters in the state favoring gay marriage, with 63% opposed. Now 27% express support for gay marriage with 59% opposed, for an overall 11 point shift on the margin.”
— Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) comes out for marriage equality: The highest ranking African American in Congress told MSNBC earlier this week, “I, like the president, have evolved to a point of marriage equality. I have not always been there. I grew up in a parsonage, a fundamentalist Christian parsonage, and I grew up with that indoctrination. And I have grown to the point that I believe that we have evolved to marriage equality.” “If we consider this to be a civil right — and I do — I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach,” Clyburn said. “I think that we should have a national policy on this.”
— African Americans say Obama’s support did not change their opinion of him: A Pew Research Center survey concluded that “most African Americans, on the other hand, say the announcement did not alter their opinion of Obama.”
More black than white people oppose marriage equality, but since 2008, “the proportion of African Americans favoring gay marriage has increased from 26% to 39%, while opposition has fallen from 63% to 49%.”