As the D.C. government prepares to legalize same-sex marriage, some supporters fret that the issue could divide the city along racial lines. It probably won't happen, because gay rights activists in the District have built a potent, biracial political bloc that seems set to drive the bill to passage easily in coming months. The real threat to same-sex marriage here will be conservatives in Congress trying to meddle in what should be a matter for the District to decide on its own.

Nevertheless, it's an intriguing fact, acknowledged by both sides, that blacks in the District overall oppose same-sex marriage while whites support it. Why is that so? And should African Americans, who battled so long for civil rights for themselves, be natural allies of gay people seeking such rights today? The answers cast light on the intersection of racial , gender and class politics in the city.

The legal niceties are outlined here if you're so inclined:

It's been almost a year since the people in my state decided that animals needed more rights while gays had too many. One question has been nagging at me ever since then.

First I need to state this before someone accuses me of being a racist: I'm not blaming any race or the passage of Prop 8; anyone who voted for it is either a bigot or too ignorant and willingly blind to what the Proposition would do.

The article did, I feel, a good job of exploring something that's been on my mind but I'm curious about what you think.

Why is it the case that in DC, California in 2008, and Florida in 2008, blacks were the demographic with the highest percentage of people opposed to gay marriage?

It's not just somewhat higher. On the CA 2008 ballot Whites supported Prop 8 at 49%, Blacks at 70% (Latinos at 54%, Asians at 49%). The FL ballot was somewhat closer but irksome nonetheless with Whites at 60% in support of Prop 2, Blacks at 71% (Latinos at 64%).

I can't help but ask myself, 'how can this be.' No other group in American history has been subjugated to as much prejudice, legal subjugation, and legal abuse as Blacks. They suffered through Plessy v Ferguson, Jim Crow Laws, poll tests, grandfather tests and a whole host of other legally imposed abuses. I would have thought Blacks would have been the demographic to be the most sympathetic to gay marriage.

It's not just that my assumption was wrong, it was totally wrong. Who I thought would be the greatest ally turned out to be the greatest challenge.

One part of the article that is emblematic of my whole inability to understand this phenomena is 'the trend within the black community is toward tolerance. The May survey found that District blacks favored same-sex civil unions, with the legal rights of marriage, by 52 percent to 36 percent.'

How can Blacks in DC be in support of what is essentially a separate but equal institution? Especially after having suffered through it themselves.

Now, the DC group in support of same-sex marriage has done a good job of bringing Blacks and particularly Black religious leaders into their campaign, the support on the DC city council is overwhelming, almost unanimous, and, as the article says, the only real obstacle to same-sex marriage in DC is in the capitol building.

Granted, I know the challenges faced by the gay community are many times removed from being hosed in the streets with dogs at their heels, but how can a group that endured such long and sustained subjugation be so unsympathetic to another group who is asking essentially for the same things?

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You're being mighty naive if you are mystified by black rejection of gay rights. Also, reasoning by analogy is tricky; it's difficult enough to get various ethnic minorities to be sympathetic to one another; there's yet another leap to achieve empathy with a different type of minority. As for lack of sympathy with another group, you could ask the same question about just any group. You could ask a number of gay whites why they are so racist. You could ask Africans or West Indians why they look down on black Americans, etc. etc. etc. And then when it comes to homophobia, people who have been deprived of the advantages of patriarchy crave it all the more. Don't be so shocked.
I don't think I gave the impression that I was surprised that there are Black homophobes. I would have been much more surprised if the poll had shown 100% opposition to the restricting of gay rights by Blacks.

What I can't understand is why it's at 70%. Anywhere within 10% of 50% I could understand, that would be a little more than two standard deviations from the national poll and the state poll, that I can see. In CA, Blacks were a full 16% more in opposition than the next highest racial demographic.

I'm not surprised that the phenomena exists, I'm surprised that it's so pronounced, especially in the context of support levels from other race demographics.

I suppose I could ask why some gay whites are racists, but there aren't 70% of gay whites in favor of bringing back Jim Crow laws. If there were, then I'd be just as disturbed by that too.
I know what you mean about racist. I had to distance myself from a gay couple I was friends with loose, because they were soo anti-Asian. I don't even think I could get them to recognize that Asia is a continent, not a country! Whenever I would point it out, they would back down, but the next time I saw them, they would be at it again! I pointed out that they would not dream of saying such a thing about African Americans (they were white) as well as pointing out the ways that they had been discriminated against over the years. Didn't help. They live across the street and are otherwise nice, but I thought I could change their minds over time, but when I realized they were not going to change, I had to distance myself from them. I learned that being discriminated against at whatever level doesn't stop one from being a racist themselves. Cognitive dissonance, hard at work!
Damn, couldn't get this in before the edit window closed.

I do see your point about the trouble of reasoning by analogy.
I mean crave patriarchy all the more. The patriarchal mentality in the black community is all the more intense because the benefits of patriarchy were denied while patriarchy was instituted;the humiliation, powerlessness, and dysfunction did not lead people to reject an institution that was not working for them, but to embrace it more fanatically. And of course, if you're powerless in society as a whole, and you've inherited the pettiness of viciousness and domination as a way of life, what other way to assert yourself but to dominate some dumbass woman who's going to let you do it? And what's worse than holdovers from earlier times are young people who insist on acting this way now.
Quite a few African Americans grow up in or around the Black Church. The Church, having transformed from a corner of the plantation to a corner on every block of some towns, has enormous influence even in politics. Tyler Perry's films, for example, pander to a black audience - but a black audience that is both Christian (Baptist) and conservative. Obviously he's tapped a large demographic no one really knew about, else he wouldn't be so successful...But I digress. One may be tempted to assume that most African Americans are liberal, but they tend to lean conservative when it comes to public policy. That tendency comes from the Black Church...Most Black Churches, by sheer virtue of being Christian, are not liberal entities. They are not going to advocate sex education (your daughters better be chaste or their reputations are gone), gender equality (God has a different purpose for men and women) or the concept of gay ANYTHING. I've seen a pastor denounce homosexuality and, with loud clapping encouraging him, declare that he would never allow gays to marry in HIS church. Among other things; I should also note that one of his sons is gay. Empathy does not compute when religion steers the mental wheel, no matter how much collective suffering the past might have held.

Obviously I'm not speaking for everyone, but based on what I've experienced (having been forced to go to church until I went to university) and from what I learned from my studies. There's a whole bunch of historical background to this, but that would be another discussion.
That's what I've been guessing at too.

I've only been to a Black Church once, I assumed that what I heard and saw was the exception and not the norm but I guess it may not have been too far off.

They did not break down the whole of the Black demographic by age range so I don't know if maybe younger generations of Blacks would have been more sympathetic than older. Each fraction therein was far too small to be a reliable measure of each sub-demographic.

Now I have to ask if younger generations of Blacks are as influenced by the Black Church as the older. For the older I can understand their bond to it, I'd be curious to know I could expect the same trend to follow into future.

It's still hard to grasp. Black Churches were the epicenters of the Civil Rights movement, granted neither the Black Churches nor the secular Civil Libertarians would have been able to achieve what they had independently, but it's hard to deny the role that the Black Church had in organizing the mass movement.

I suppose that, for now, in a malicious twist, the only rights they're interested in are their own.
Very much so.

Young people in the Church, if they really agree with what's being said or it resonates somehow, will stay in it. If the Church has a strong youth ministry, it can lure in enough kids to create a really secure, really tight-knit core of evangelists. At home, that "core" of kids were some of the most popular kids in the public middle and high school, and that's how the youth ministry numbers went up. The leader of the ministry was a teacher in the public high school and his popularity there helped, too. Those young people will vote like the rest of the Church; I don't know what their numbers are, either, but my feeling is that teenagers in general aren't really religious-minded. I'm also counting the students in the Church who just play the role of fervent believer, because what better way to cover up Saturday night with a Anti-Immigration or Anti-Gay Marriage rally on Sunday Morning?

Also, enough Black Churches have turned into cash crops, because people often invest in worlds and ideas they, in the moment they drop a check, cannot obtain. Screw getting an MBA; I could become a deaconess (through marrying a deacon would be the easy way *sigh*) or a superstar pastor-lady. Churches in Harlem are now a tourist attraction (!!!) and part of the reason some of those rude prats haven't been turned away is...they tend to pay big money to "observe the wild African American in its natural habitat" (I'm paraphrasing a commenter). And if you're in a church that has a crazy-high number of power elite, like I was...You don't go controversial. Unless it's controversial in the name of Jeeesus.

And you certainly, CERTAINLY, don't go against the will of your majority socioconservative congregation.
Younger African Americans are still influenced by the church :( but appear to have a more liberal attitude towards GLTB than their parents.
There are more white people in the US; there are significantly less black people, and since most of us are religious that's how the numbers play out.
I will have to find out where I read an article debunking that such a high number of African Americans voted against Prop 8. It actually had more to do with age, with the older very religious christians voting for it and the younger (I don't remember what age they used as a cut-off) voting against it. The research showed that age was the primary determinant of whether you voted for or against prop 8, not race. Even though there was a large turnout in younger voters in the past election, older voters show up at the polls in much larger numbers.
I believe I read an article like that, if you find it, I'd like to see if it was the same one.

The one I had read was unconvincing and extrapolated from the generally older Yes on 8 demographic to mean that it had to be the older Black vote and not Black vote at large that supported the Proposition.

However, if that is the case, it just makes this that much more puzzling and infuriating. It was that older Blacks who themselves suffered through Jim Crow laws and segregation who are now happily imposing it on another minority.



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