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African Americans (Really) Hate Gay Marriage

May 9, 2012

Or so I keep hearing. The media likes to remind us that African Americans oppose same-sex marriage. After North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution limiting marriage to between one man and one woman, NBC reported that,

One noteworthy pattern was that some majority black counties which had strongly backed President Obama in 2008 just as strongly supported the proposed amendment on Tuesday.

For example, Hertford County, with a 60 percent black population, voted for Obama with 70 percent in 2008 and on Tuesday 70 percent of its voters backed the constitutional amendment defining marriage.

I’m not sure what I’m meant to glean from this: that supporters of Barack Obama also support suppressing gay people? Despite dangling this nugget in front of readers, there is no further exploration of black aversion to same-sex marriage in the reportage. It’s fascinating to me how the media has covered this subcategory of the larger same-sex marriage debate, focusing explicitly on race, rather than the complicated intersection of race and religiosity which I’ve written about before.

As uncritical as the media is about race and racism, the media is even less critical about the role and influence of religion–for better or for worse–in our society. The data overwhelmingly indicates that religion has a significant influence on how citizens view same-sex marriage–and yet there is very little reference to this by the media. This is all very interesting, though not at all surprising, and only mildly disappointing.

North Carolina reminds us that there is a lot of work needed to be done to achieve marriage equality. While we should expect some leadership from President Obama on the issue of marriage equality, we’re probably not going to get it, because it’s still too divisive. According to the most recent Gallop polling, 50 percent of Americans think marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, while another 48 percent think they should not be recognized as legal. North Carolina is among 30 states that have state constitutional provisions limiting marriage to between one man and one woman, and there are 38 states prohibiting same-sex marriage.

North Carolina (and, to a lesser extent, Colorado) reminds us that we’re still a country sharply divided on same-sex marriage and marriage equality.

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