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?