Commentators suggest Obama took a political risk in backing same-sex marriage

Here and Now

President Barack Obama may have taken a political risk when he announced Wednesday that he supported same-sex marriage.

At least some experts say that declaration may cost him support among some of his key constituencies, particularly among African Americans, where polls show a majority of voters oppose gay marriage. North Carolina voters this week approved a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. African Americans voted 2-to-1 to support the measure and ban gay marriage.

Touré, the African American author and cultural commentator, argued in a post on Time magazine’s website that the President’s support of gay marriage could hurt him at the polls.

“This step could endanger him in the South and in heavily religious states and with black Americans,” he wrote. “Supporting marriage equality could damage his chance for re-election as much as any other issue. It’s one that strikes deep into how people feel about the core values of their nation and their Bible.’

Boyce Watkins, founder of Your Black World Coalition and a Syracuse professor, has a different take on the issue. He said he doesn’t personally oppose same-sex marriage, and thinks the way it played out is a good lesson for the Black community. In his own commentary, he wrote that this should show Black Americans how to make sure their issues are addressed.

“It shows us that only squeaky wheels get oiled, and that support for any politician must be conditional on the politician responding to the needs of that particular constituency,” he wrote. “By being as quiet as church mice, Black America will always end up at the back of the bus, even when our president looks just like us.”

Watkins also said that the relationship between the Black community and Obama is very strong, “there are people that are relentless committed to him,” he said, and their relationship will survive this.

“They know and the president knows they don’t have any other choices,” Watkins said. “You can go back into the history of Mitt Romney and find cases where he’s advocated for gay rights, but you really can’t find anything that says Mitt Romney will advocate for any of the Black agenda.”

So, ultimately, while some African-American voters may disagree with Obama’s decision, when they show up at the polls they’re still going to vote for him, Watkins said.

Part of the problem for African-Americans, at least according to Watkins, is a perception that members of the gay community are taking advantage of the hard-fought advances Blacks earned during the Civil Rights Era.

“I think to write it off as this blanket homophobia and some kind of ignorance is a little bit disrespectful,” he said. “The Black community, which tends to be deeply religious, very rooted with their church, they have a set of beliefs that tell that homosexuality is wrong.”

Part of what this is exposing, Watkins contends, is the natural divide between the liberal agenda and the Black agenda.

“There are many African-Americans who are really closet conservatives,” Watkins said. “But the Republicans are so racist sometimes that Black Americans don’t feel comfortable being a part of that party.”

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